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Flowers that Bloom the Most Before Elections: Fake news

Updated: Feb 6

Fake news can be defined as an exact nowadays buzzword describing misinformation, inaccurate facts, propaganda, and artificial content material. Although fake news has existed from the beginning of mass media, digitization's rapid growth helped to evolve misinformation in different and modern shapes. Can you imagine that with the help of new technologies plus creativity, it is barely impossible to differentiate between real and fake material?


Starting from a massive amount of false articles on media platforms and finishing with brilliantly made fake videos of the president's announcement. Without saying, fake news breaks multiple ethical standards. This type of misinformation has a known tendency to spread even more widely during the pre-election period.


Let's dive deeper into the fake news concept, and even more importantly - find out the ways to detect them.

Image author: Filip Mishevski

New era of fake news: Deepfake

We already know that there are different fake news formats, including articles, pictures, audio, and even videos. Also, sometimes with the help of artificial intelligence, people can realistically combine and falsify various information, leading to the emergence of fake news that spreads very quickly through media channels and affects millions of users (Figueira & Oliveira, 2017).


One of the famous examples can be a deepfake that moved fake news to another level. For those who haven't heard about deepfake, it is a tool used to swap people's faces in videos and photos. Even though the mentioned technology is commonly used in the film industry, it is often used for unethical purposes, such as falsifying public importance messages. For the reason to unrecognizably turn one person's face to another, it is necessary to collect as many photos of a person's face as possible (The Guardian, 2020).


In 2017, researchers from the University of Washington used deepfake technology to create a photorealistic former U.S. President Barack Obama. Researchers analyzed Mr. Obama's mouth's movement when he speaks and put any words into their synthetic to make a fake speech of the former President. Take a look at the 100% phony video, where Mr. Obama gives not real speeches (BBC News, 2017).


You are right, deepfake moved fake news creation to another level, meaning it is barely possible to detect them. Knowing the fact there are plenty of politicians' photos and footage on the internet, here comes the question, how tools such as deepfake can affect the processes of an election in 2020?


Image Author: Ilya Pavlov

Can innovations become a weapon against fake news?

Some people use deepfake for research reasons, but some malicious people may use it to manipulate certain information and cause confusion. According to Westerlund (2019), the appearance of deepfake and similar AI-powered tools has increased media literacy requirements and the ability to detect fake news in media channels.


For this reason, Microsoft, the U.S. multinational technology company, has presented two new technologies for detecting fake news online (BBC News, 2020). The first one - Microsoft Video Authenticator. This innovative tool analyzes photographs and videos to provide a confidence score that the media content is artificially manipulated. This technology also shows the percentage of possibly false content in real-time on each frame as the video plays. Microsoft Video Authenticator is a massive help for identifying deepfakes, which can be undetectable by the human eye. The second Microsoft technology provides an index of content authenticity. The tool combines the Microsoft Azure extension, which allows a content provider to add digital certificates, and a browser extension, which checks these certificates by letting people know if the content is accurate and authentic. These two technologies, which help protect readers from false information, have been introduced at the right time since 2020 has the whole election marathon.


To stop the spread of fake content on media channels, in 2017, Lithuanian journalists and civil society members created the project "Demaskuok.lt". This initiative aims to unite different field experts who can use their knowledge and skills to combat misinformation in Lithuania. The primary weapon of "Demaskuok.lt" is an AI-based tool, which identifies fake news and helps prevent the spread of this content. This kind of AI-powered technology is used for the first time in Lithuanian media (Demaskuok.lt, 2020).


Image Author: Obi Onyeador

Be aware

Fake news exists mostly everywhere on the internet. It is as real as a pandemic. Fortunately, some prevention practices can help to recognize misinformation online. First of all, to prove the content's accuracy, please check at least several resources for the same article or video. Second, be aware of the content lacks author attribution - factual information is presented by real people with real names and surnames. Moreover, if the resource doesn’t look trustworthy - do a quick research on the internet or check the “About Us” section on their website. Also, use some browser extensions that help check the accuracy degree on the media content, such as the Microsoft extension, which we mentioned above.


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Written by Kristina Kirkliauskaite


This article was updated on February 6, 2021.



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