Technology is amazing! It has brought about unbelievable improvements across the world, particularly for developing countries, which today have tools that can assist them in leapfrogging development in unbelievable ways.
That said, the increasing threat we all face today is that unscrupulous elements are leveraging some of these tools to cause fear, panic, despair and ultimately wreak havoc.
It is rather unfortunate but has become our reality. This is has led to an increased call for regulation of some tech-based platforms i.e. social media across the world.
This can be attributed to several reasons such as cyber-bullying, child pornography, privacy issues, advanced fee fraud, phishing of all sorts, fake news and lots more.
I could go on and on actually but my focus today is Fake news that has simply transformed into an ugly menace.
Once upon a time, I was a chronic social media user but that has pretty much changed today, not particularly because of the platforms themselves but the amount of time I devote to verifying information that came my way.
It was draining and so I had cut my usage of social media instead I started spending more time on mobile-based platforms.
I remember reading a 6-part report published by the BBC, which described multiple scenarios of how fake news, fueled through social media, led to the death and maiming of some people. Humanity is really at a crossroads because social media can be great, but how do we collectively deal with this ugly menace of fake news? This is indeed a challenge that we must confront collectively.
Mozilla, the organisation behind the famous Firefox browser sent a mail to users a while ago and the excerpt reads; ‘trust in our media and social institutions is quickly eroding and threatening how our democracies function. At its heart is the growing problem of misinformation and disinformation, spreading in large part on the Internet. Social media platforms and policymakers are struggling to get their heads around the scope of the problem — or imagine solutions’.
Well, the challenge of fake news is that anyone can become a victim. This includes a man or woman that, hitherto, had no blemish whatsoever.
This is not to stop anyone from airing their opinion but the act and strategy of peddling false information that can’t be proven all in the name of expressing one’s freedom of speech is highly condemnable.
People may have certain views and opinion, but it will be unfair to employ underhand tactics, all in a bid to hurt the reputation of others especially when they are not innocent.
My take is that all hands must be on deck to stem this ugly tide. So, in what would seem like unthinkable some years ago, WhatsApp, a few days ago, launched TV adverts in nine languages, including English, Kannada, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Gujarati, Assamese, Marathi and Malayalam across India because of the increasing menace of face news.
This is because according to a report by Bloomberg, the Indian government has warned WhatsApp that it will treat the messaging platform as abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow if adequate checks are not put in place.
This situation has everyone scrambling for solutions and this is simply my own way of contributing so that more people are better informed about the true situation of fake news.
Let us take this a step further into a more scary realm. Have you ever heard of the term Deep Fake? If no, here is what it means; it is simply an artificial intelligence assisted image synthesis technique that can be used to convert or swap faces in video content.
The world was shocked when a public service announcement video was released with Obama’s voice but in reality, it was a guy called Jordan Peele that was behind the computer.
Deepfake technology which has a lot of good use-cases has sort of made it possible for things to be taken things to a whole new level.
Imagine the supposedly nude photo or video of a superstar on the Internet, whereas, it was properly faked. Does this not take what you will regard as scandals to a whole new level?
The point that I am trying to make, is for everyone to understand that in the days, months and years ahead, there will be all sorts of scandals peddled against popular, high net worth individuals and celebrities, just to get at them and useful tools such as deepfakes will be employed.
It is for you and me to be vigilant as we have no choice but to collectively fight fake news. This is because the table can turn easily and the hunter becomes the hunted.
10 tips to spotting fake news
- Be sceptical of headlines
- Look closely at the URL
- Investigate the source
- Watch for unusual formatting
- Consider the photos
- Inspect the dates
- Check the evidence
- Look at other reports
- Is the story a joke?
- Stories are intentionally false
As part of my conclusion, I wish to request that social media and mobile platforms users particularly WhatsApp should stop forwarding ‘as received’ or sharing whatever comes your way. Always ensure you verify before sharing because that is one sure way of ensuring that we collectively combat fake news.
Honestly, it will be sad for humanity to continue digging an already humongous hole. We all have a role to play as we attempt to tackle this hydra-headed monster called fake news before it causes humanity great havoc.
ICT Clinic by CFA is published weekly in the Sunday Punch