Blog #6: Fake photos make me cringe

The unwritten rule that online content must have photos has blurred the line between fact and fiction. Every blogger, every news editor, every website designer needs a visual to complete the story. If there isn’t an original photo to go with the piece, a stock photo with a generic cutline will do.

As a journalist it makes me cringe. I think this reliance on stock photos is the media industry’s biggest flaw. It is going to lead to a crisis of credibility.

Recently, I was watching the Garth Brooks biography, Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On. There are frequent references to the house in Hendersonville, Tenn., which he and his first wife shared with a large number of people (5? 7? I can’t recall) in the late ’80s. On screen, as Garth is talking about it, there is an image of an average brick bungalow. At no time does it say whether this is the actual house, or just a similar house in a similar neighborhood. The filmmakers let the viewer assume this is the actual house Garth lived in with all those other people.

Is this the house where I grew up, or just a generic shot that fits my narrative? You’ll never know in today’s media world. Photo: Pexels by Pixabay

As a viewer, I’m trying to imagine how so many people fit into such a small place. That’s why it matters to me whether this is the actual house or not. But it is now standard practice for filmmakers, journalists, bloggers, and social media influencers to choose any image that illustrates their point without specifying whether the photo is fact or fiction.

When I was taught journalism, this would not have been acceptable. But today, many of the people producing media content are not journalists, and the line between real and fake has crumbled to dust.

About me: After more than 25 years as an editor of trade publications, I’m now learning social media techniques. I’ll be writing about news, communication, social media and travel as I go through this career transition. Please join me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or my blog, and we’ll chat.

The Atlantic Council’s Agenda!

              Online security has been an discussed since the election of Donald Trump notably the idea that the Trump campaign worked inappropriately with the Russian government to get the 45th President elected.  The idea of wanting better relations with a state like Russia which in many ways does not reflect Western social values, to conduct international business more effectively in a joint way is what Trump talked about. 

https://www.pexels.com/photo/america-ancient-architecture-art-356844/

During his election cycle that got him the Presidency and at a fever pitch every day afterwards a narrative was discussed that better relations were not the idea Trump is a puppet of Russia.  The crackdown on Trump like speech online which does veer into hate speech sometimes on Facebook was monitored by a group called the Atlantic Council who do a poor job because they aren’t against fake news they are against anti establishment dissent more broadly speaking.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/access-application-browser-connection-267469/

              The idea of Russian assets running a muck and destroying Western civilization online is puffed up as the Reuters piece that discusses their activity points out factually: ‘Facebook is using the group to enhance its investigations of foreign interference. Last week, the company said it took down 32 suspicious pages and accounts that purported to be run by leftists and minority activists. While some U.S. officials said they were likely the work of Russian agents, Facebook said it did not know for sure.’  (Menn, 2018)  This is unacceptable because a left wing fomenting of discord is entirely democratic and bodies like the Atlantic Council simply fuel the conspiracy theories of tomorrow by taking action against the left as much as they are there to stop what the narrative of Russia-Gate suggests.

Photo by vierro from Pexels

I believe that there is a conflation between fake news and news that is unflattering or problematic to the establishment and you can see that simply where the money comes from the Atlantic Council.  Think about the substance of the criticism of Wikileaks in 2016: it was not a denial of the facts rather that the facts were inconvenient.  As Matt Taibi says: ‘Many on the left lamented the Wikileaks releases of Democratic Party emails, but those documents were real news, and the complaint there was more about the motives of sources, and editorial emphasis, rather than accuracy.’ (Taibi, 2018)

              I would not take the position that there should be no censorship on social media because otherwise there would be an endless amount of real-life violence and pornography that would be unacceptable.  There are however plenty of grey area cases such as Palestinian Peace activists, Black Lives Matter activists or even people who are against the regime change policies in Venezuela who lose their freedom of speech on social media for dubious reasons. 

It is up to the gate keepers to provide the public with their methods of establishing when someone is violating acceptable speech and up for us to decide whether that is or is not our values as a society.

              In the end it is my opinion that after the Iraq WMD story presented by the C.I.A., whatever the intelligence community says should not be accepted as sacrosanct because they are subject to manipulation.  The current state of the world is very confusing because many people outside of the club of mainstream journalism can present a world view with a filtering of information and presentation of different priorities.  Knowing all these perspectives is impossible hence we live in politically fragmented times that simply reflects us in a transitional period where no one clear agenda has found its way to the top just yet.

Twitter Post

I’m not thrilled by the Atlantic Council and don’t think you should be either! I talk about movies mostly but think freedom of speech is worth protecting as well. I would love for you to read my thoughts on the Atlantic Council.: https://bit.ly/3gPYtcv

Facebook Post

My 2nd WordPress Blog might not take aim at the Reptilian Agenda but it’s still worth mentioning.: https://bit.ly/304aNQl

References

  1. Menn, Joseph. “U.S. think tank’s tiny lab helps Facebook battle fake social media.Reuters. 17 August 2018
  2. Taibi, Matt. “Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship.” Rolling Stone. 2 August 2018

Hoax, Lies, and Videotape

Fighting an “Infodemic” on Social Media

Picture of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization

“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General spoke these words on Februay 15, 2020 at the Munich Security Conference, a month prior to COVID-19 being declared a pandemic. At the time, COVID-19 was considered a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) with China having 66,000 Coronavirus cases and only 505 cases in the rest of the world. He praised China for buying the world time to prepare but warned the international community about the looming threat to healthcare workers, access to personal protective equipment, the havoc this virus could cause on health systems and how rumours would hamper response. To counter the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, the World Health Organization turned to assistance from social media companies.

News reports about COVID-19 bombards us every day, adding to anxiety that we may already be experiencing due to isolation. Social Media is a great tool for connecting people during this crisis, but as mentioned in a previous post, the threat of sharing misinformation can be just as dangerous.

Picture of various social media applications on a smartphone
Photo courtesy of Pexels.com/@Pixabay

Along with donating millions of dollars to health and economic relief efforts, companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google, among others, are investing in the news industry and in fact-checking. The result is a crackdown to remove false or misleading information about COVID-19 on their apps. Links to false cures and hoaxes have been (or are in the process of being) blocked. Instead, platforms are providing valuable and accurate information to their customers (click on the links for more information):

  • Google users will find information on education and prevention and redirects to the local resources
  • Along with offering content from experts and support groups, Reddit has bookmarked a list of free ebooks and audiobooks for those in isolation
  • Both Microsoft and LinkedIN offer support for remote learning and working
  • YouTube is producing video health panels as part of their #StayHome campaign
  • Facebook‘s newly launched Community Help forum is for people to find or share support in their community (a grassroots neighbours-helping-neighbours initiative)

As Dr. Ghebreyesus concluded in that speech, “In our fractured and divided world, health is one of the few areas in which international cooperation offers the opportunity for countries to work together for a common cause. This is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumours. This is a time for solidarity, not stigma.

Pick a social media platform of your choice, search for the COVID-19 content posted by its staff and share this information with a friend or on your timeline. #AllinThisTogether #StayAtHome #StaySafe

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Facebook Hoax, Lies and Videotape. How @Facebook and other social media are fighting the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’. Read more at https://bit.ly/2JFT4oR

Twitter Hoax, Lies and Videotape. How @Twitter is fighting the #COVID19 ‘infodemic’. Read more at https://bit.ly/2JFT4oR #FakeNews

Social Media, Politicians and Fake News: Who Do You Believe?

I am pretty sure that everyone knows what fake news is, but in order to make sure that everyone does, let me describe what it is as well as what their goals are.

Fake news is, basically, plain ordinary news and stories that have been made up in order to make the reader believe they are true when they are, in fact, just pure fiction.  The goal of fake news is to influence the reader and his position concerning a specific subject.  It is, in general, a subject related to politics and is mostly geared toward power or monetary gains.

Of course, because of the speed and the reach that social media has nowadays, some fake news may travel around the world at a fulgurant speed.  This may bring some positive insights in certain situations but, unfortunately, because of its nature, it has a negative impact, and, in some cases, it may even be destructive.

Fake news is not always easily detected. In some cases, detective work may be required.

There are many different types of fake news; clickbait, propaganda, satire/parody, sloppy journalism, misleading headings and biased/slanted news.  With the increasing number of fake news, it is very difficult for the reader to determine if what he is reading on social media is true or not.  There are, however, ways to recognize fake news.

The first step is to trace the history of the digital postings that have been done on social media.  By doing so, it will be easy to confirm the location and the date of a specific posting.  Treat screenshots, images, pictures and videos with the utmost attention.  Even some websites are created to accommodate fake news!  This is a time when it is imperative to look at other sources to compare headlines and content in order to make an educated opinion.

The fake news phenomenon is so popular and getting so much attention that some websites have been created to check reported facts and verify their authenticity.  Here are a few fact checking websites for different countries:

After performing a Google search on Canadian Fact Checking Websites, the following websites appeared in the search results:

The URLs of certain websites should be verified before visiting them to read their content.  Websites ending with .com or .co could potentially be accommodating fake news.  If the visited site provides articles written by the same author, this also can be an indication of the presence of fake news in the content.  This is the perfect time to Google everything!  It is estimated that 90% of Canadians have fallen for fake news.

So. next time you read some news or stories on social media, will you instantly believe it? Will you immediately take a stand and have an opinion on the subject? Or will you check the facts and ensure that what you are reading is not fake news?

References:

Legalzoom.com. 1200 x 792 jpeg. Fake News: What Laws Are Designed to Protect. [Image online]. Retrieved from https://binged.it/2XGW61N

Russell, Andrew. (June 12, 2019). Facebook won’t remove doctored videos. Here are tools to help you verify content. [Online]. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/5381118/how-to-spot-fake-news-misinformation-disinformation-online/

Thompson, Elizabeth. CBC News. (June 11, 2019). Poll finds 90% of Canadians have fallen for fake news. [Online]. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/fake-news-facebook-twitter-poll-1.5169916

Websise.ie. (June 21, 2018). Explained: What is Fake News? [Online]. Retrieved from https://www.webwise.ie/teachers/what-is-fake-news/

Do you believe everything you read about on social media?  Can you differentiate a real story from a fake news?  If you want to learn more about fake news and how to recognize it, read my blog at https://bit.ly/2KlOuih

Are you wondering if what you are reading is fake news?  How can you tell, without a doubt, if what you are reading is not fake news?  To know more about the fake news phenomenon, read my blog at https://bit.ly/2KlOuih #fakenews