Type to search

Featured Telecommunications/Technology

Practical Techie: Detecting fake news getting harder on the web

Web-users must be wary of how events play out in the virtual reality of cyberspace.

Besides it not being a real world, there is also the danger of postings with manipulated facts and images.

We will examine a few recent samples of how false images and data can easily sidetrack a web surfer who is not keen on how bona fide information can easily be morphed into misinformation. This misinterpretation of facts and events are rampant on the World Wide Web usually for propaganda purposes, political malice, or personal revenge, and of course, pranks.

SNIPING — Political sharpshooting is one of the worst sins related to misinformation on the internet. It is done on purpose to confuse and perplex followers of political rivals or to damage a public figure’s image. It is a dangerous practice, but political saboteurs could care less about the ethics of truth and informational honesty.  

One such instance occurred recently when deceivers flooded the web with pseudo-news reports that a candidate for state governor in Mexico, Adrián de la Garza, fled the country after ordering a fatal attack against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. This was done through a short video that ran on social media but turned out to be doctored. Now its anonymous origins are untraceable.  

SENSATIONALISM — Sick minds love to spread false drama on the web.

In Mexico also, in June of this year, a sensational video of a cable car being pummeled by the winds and allegations that the riders aboard were in danger. The facts are that the video is about when the booths were used for stress testing. The real images show the cabins empty of passengers. When the video hit the social networks, it was shared multiple times with no one taking time out to verify its authenticity.

IMAGES — Falsifiers also spread devious reports last September about Venezuelan troops arriving in Cuba to quell protests all over the island against the government. A series of photographs of Venezuelan soldiers on Cuban soil was posted on Facebook for this ruse. Upon a fact check by serious news media, the pictures turned out to be from 2018 when President Nicolas Maduro dispatched a battalion of Venezuelan paratroopers to the border with Colombia to pursue drug trafficking.

Some of the visuals were Agence France-Presse (AFP) news takes of Cuban riot police, not members of the Venezuelan military. The uniform of the police officers did not even match those used by the Venezuelan forces.

In the same scenario, rumors spread like wildfire in South Florida social media that former president Raúl Castro fled from Cuba to Venezuela during the recent anti-government protests, It turned out to be another false report since the news photos of Castro descending from a plane in the middle of the night were from a 2015 official trip to Costa Rica for the Third Summit of Latin American and the Caribbean States. The Twitter account on which the false statement appeared has since been erased.

The truth is that Cuba has been rattled this year by citizens protesting food prices and power outages amid the health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

FAKE – As it turns out, seeing is no longer believing on the internet. The security portal scitechdail.com states that online images are not always what they seem.

A peace sign from Martin Luther King, Jr, becomes a rude gesture when his hand gets one finger erased. Another case are pictures of then President Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd scenes shamelessly inflated. Or of false dolphins swimming in Venice’s Grand Canal. Also, of crocodiles on the streets of flooded Florida town.

All were posted as real events after manipulation with image editing software.

Fake news is generated to create viral sensations as seen on this YouTube video.

To achieve their ploy, manipulators take advantage of low levels of internet literacy among social network users. Worst yet, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) found that there was very low usage in newsrooms worldwide of social media verification tools. Mostly due to rushing deadlines or the high cost of forensic software.

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *