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JayMac: Russia lies and deep fakes? Don’t get fooled again.

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.

Like & Share. That’s how millions of Americans, unwillingly or unknowingly, helped spread Russia propaganda to interfere in the 2016 presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances and boosting Donald Trump’s.

According to the Mueller Report, at least 17 campaign officials and advisers had numerous contacts with Russian nationals, with WikiLeaks, or with intermediaries between the two.

Now, I’m not talking about President Trump’s version of Fake News — i.e. anything that doesn’t flatter him.

But a more devious type of Fake News is emerging just in time for the 2020 elections: The Deep Fake, which is artificial intelligence-based technology used to produce or alter video content so that it presents something that never happened.

It wasn’t exactly a Deep Fake, but about a month ago, a slowed-down video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, depicting her slurring her words to make her appear drunk, was shared on Facebook 2.5 million times just two days later.

Here’s another example. It looks like you’re watching former President Barack Obama speak in this clip, but it’s not actually him. It’s Jordan Peele, demonstrating what technology can do with his words and facial expressions merged onto the former president’s face.

So to avoid the manipulation that happened in the earlier election, the question becomes: How are we going to respond to Deep Fakes?

You are going to be the Weapon of Defense.

How to fight deep fakes

We ask Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to take the fake videos down. But we need to do more this time around. The only hope is if all Americans take the time to verify and research the facts. We can’t be complicit in sharing and spreading disinformation on social media and then ask our news sources and politicians to be honest. We have to do the work of checking out the information. We are The Defenders.

The only way the Russian propaganda campaign flourished in the past presidential election is because Americans were willing to comply by liking and sharing on the internet. We bear responsibility for shutting the lies down. Shut It Down. As is said in finance, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” The same is generally true in politics.

But you say, how can I know if something I’m reading or watching is Fake News?

  • Consider the source. Is the author reliable? Is there a byline on the material? Have previous posts been credible? Any red flags in the past? Investigate the website. Is there an “about us” section available?
  • Go beyond the headlines, which are sometimes just “clickbait” and designed to get you to click on them. Read the body of the post or article.
  • See who else is covering the news item. Do a Google search. Do the different versions mostly line up or corroborate each other? If not, that should sound alarm bells.
  • Does the news item use anonymous sources? Are the sources quoted? Is there more than one source.
  • Check the date of the material.

How do I know if something I’m watching is a Deep Fake?

  • Blurring evident in the face but not elsewhere in the video.
  • A change of skin tone near the edge of the face
  • Double chins, double eyebrows or double edges on the face
  • People depicted in deep-fake videos often blink far less often than humans do in real life. According to Swei Lyu, a professor at University at Albany, this method has a 95 percent detection rate.

The AI Foundation has developed Reality Defender, a program that runs alongside other online applications, identifying potentially fake media. But you are the last line of defense.

If you don’t do an internet search before liking or sharing, then you are responsible for spreading propaganda, if that’s what it turns out to be.

Don’t help Russia do their job with these deep fakes. Do the research, hunt the lie down, and crash the Russian lie machine.

Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show, weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL Newsradio, as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.