Inside the war on facts

Politics
Misinformation, disinformation. Misinformation and so called fake news. It seems like especially in social media, we're all kind of drowning in in authentic content. But it also feels like no one has any idea what an authentic content actually is. So we're in Washington, D.C to meet with the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab. They work with social media firms and with governments to find and flag this information. So let's figure out who they are and how they do it. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] Misinformation is the unintentional spread of bad information disinformation is intentional spreading of that same bad information. misinformation and disinformation have been around for a long time. What we're witnessing now is a change based off of the evolution of technology. We are the medicine. I'll put it that way. We visited the council just weeks before the Corona Virus exploded across the world. And the internet bringing with it a fresh wave of disinformation. In Robertson's words at the time seemed pathetic now information can operate online in particular like a disease. It spreads from friend to friend, acquaintance to acquaintance, colleague to colleague. [MUSIC] The DFR lab has partnered with tech firms such as Facebook and Twitter to track inauthentic behavior. It's a non commercial relationship and the organization leaves it up to. To the companies to make decisions about their findings. Json for example, is a unit within Google that tackles emerging technological threats such as disinformation, their disinformation data visualizer uses DFR lab data to show disinformation campaigns around the world. And the specific tactics used. Emerson Brooking is a resident fellow at the DFR lab and an expert on information warfare and political manipulation. As the lab continues to add to jigsaws data set, he hopes they'll be able to learn how and why these operations are conducted. We can zoom in on the United States here. For instance, this one is indicating that Iran was targeting Americans through propaganda and disinformation spread primarily through Facebook, that they were targeting the US electorate that they were using different topics related to the US military regarding different political parties in the US. And they were using sock puppets accounts that have a false fabricated history that are operated by someone else. So after something's flagged, Facebook removes it. This particular example we're looking at none of this content is available online. Live. The DFR lab works with content that is publicly available and it uses a mixture of commercially and freely available tools such as tweet beaver and brand watch and a strong human component to identify inauthentic behavior. Researchers like Alyssa contract indicators like the number and frequency of posts Account creation day and hashtags used. I wanna make sure that I have a certain degree of certainty that something is being manipulated online and you can never rely on just one indicator. [BLANK_AUDIO] This profile picture, you can tell based on tiny little indications with the glasses which aren't symmetrical That It was an AI-generated photo. It looks pretty real. Yeah. It's getting increasingly challenging to make fake accounts on Facebook so using an AI-generated image is a way that certain malicious actors try to secure event over those rules. This Twitter account tweets far more than it should every day. So using tweet Beaver, which is a free, open source tool anyone can use. You can download a user's time-line. They post over 500 times every day. So each of these is a tweet This tool is looking at the activity of a certain hashtag. And it has all the individual authors that we can then put in tweet beaver to suss out their individual profiles and how much they're tweeting per day. How influential do you think some of this content is? I think that's the million dollar question in a lot of disinformation, what impact Different pieces of disinformation really has online. And it's really challenging to determine or measure impact in a objective way. But I think the broader picture is that disinformation in my experience frequently occurs when there are other social ills that have gone on address, when there's for example, a lot of polarisation or lack of public trust. [CROSSTALK]. With influence operations, the people undertaking it are intent on undermining some facet of usually what we find democracy. They're trying to assert their power in some way and yes it can be really cheap and it be really expensive you can find any number of governments funding or private citizens or anybody funding massive operations, but it can also be done very cheaply, in the form of apps or things that you can download or pay for that will get engagement that on a post that you have on Instagrams. We need people to Think critically about what they're reading and what they're consuming. And that only happens if you're armed with the facts and that's what we do is we provide those facts. We are kind of surrounded by disinformation, not just here in the US. But around the world. But it's also comforting to know that there are experts at places like the Atlantic Council, who not just quantify the truth but communicate it with social networks with NGOs and with democracies. And at the end of the day, look the onus is on you and me. It's on us to not just passively scroll and believe everything that we click on social media. But to keep our guard up at all times because the stakes could not be higher. [BLANK_AUDIO]

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