Digital Deception: Unethical Sleight of Hand

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Things are not always as they seem. Technology has advanced to the point that we can’t be sure whether or not what we’re seeing is real. There are many new ways that bad actors are using digital sleight of hand to trick us. And the list is growing.

It will take a healthy dose of skepticism, critical observation and research skills to find out if what we see is as it appears. Educate yourself and your teams about these methods of trickery and how to spot them:

Altered Photos

Photos may have had people (or faces) added or removed, backgrounds changed, or other alterations made.

5 strategies to identify doctored images, Serena O’Sullivan, Multimedia Journalism

Fake news, hoax images: How to spot a digitally altered photo from the real deal, Belinda Smith,
ABC Science

This is How You Can Tell if an Image has Been Photoshopped, Alicia Prince, LifeHack

How to Use Google Reverse Image Search to Fact-Check Images,

Altered Videos

Artificial intelligence can be used to make people appear to say things they didn’t say, or to remove critical elements of the context around what they said.

Is That Video Real?, AJ Willingham, CNN

How to Spot Deep Fake Videos – 15 Signs to Watch For, Alison Grace Johansen, Norton

How to spot a fake viral video, James Vincent, The Verge

Deep Fake “People”

Some people we see are images of realistic “people” created with artificial intelligence, or are created with parts from real photos of multiple people.

These Videos Tell the Scary Story of How Far AI Has Come, Kelsey Piper, Vox Uses AI to Generate Endless Fake Faces, James Vincent, The Verge

Dating apps need women. Advertisers need diversity. AI companies offer a solution: Fake people, Drew Harwell, Washington Post

The Good and Bad News

The good news is that we can use artificial intelligence to detect fake videos and altered photos. The bad news is that we also have to overcome our natural tendencies to believe things we see that aren’t true.

Since we have a very human tendency to believe what isn’t true, to avoid sharing fake sources we’ll need to educate ourselves and our teams about these forms of digital sleight of hand and how to spot them.

How You Can Stop The “Fake News” Madness

By Linda Fisher Thornton

We all need to know how to tell what’s real news and what’s not. While a headline may be compelling, we can easily damage our personal reputation and brand if we share it and it turns out to be “fake news.” 

It’s our job to “check stories out” to be sure that what we share is real.

Our “Human Software” is Buggy

While it’s important for us to tell the difference between the real and the fake, our “human software” comes with bugs. One type of bug we all have is cognitive biases, and one of our biases causes us to readily believe headlines we already agree with (confirmation bias). Here is a great article by Better Humans about the many flaws in our thinking. The article includes a codex graphic of our cognitive biases that will definitely get your attention. 

We all have “human processing flaws” so we need to actively learn how to consume information responsibly.

Content curators including Google and Facebook are working on finding ways to flag fake news, but an algorithm won’t ever completely solve this problem. I’ve gathered sources that will help you learn how to separate the real from the fake. They include links to organizations that check out stories, an informative video, and games for testing your ability to detect fake news and altered photos. 

Learn to Separate the Real From the Fake

Organizations Checking What’s Real and What’s Not

Hoaxy (How unverified stories spread on social media)

        Reuters Fact Check 

Fake News Website List

Wikipedia – Fake News Websites List

How False News Can Spread Video

How to Spot Fake News Video

Check It Out Before You Share

Stories are frequently made up to attract readers to sites with advertising. Photos and videos can be altered. It’s our job to “check stories out” to be sure that what we share is real. Otherwise, we’re stepping into a carefully laid trap. This trap helps unethical “fake news” sites earn more money from advertisers. It damages people’s reputations by sharing untruths about them. It hurts our credibility. It spreads falsehoods and misleads people who don’t know how to spot fake news. It becomes part of a ripple effect that can lead to serious unintended consequences. 

How Do You Stop The Madness? Check it before you share. 

Practice detecting altered photos with Adobe’s game Real or Photoshop.   

What Else Can You Do?  Teach young people how to identify credible information online.

Also See Healthy Media Consumption

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