The telecommunications sector has witnessed a decisive transformation in a short period of time. Subsequently, the growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web have transformed our lives as well. No one today can imagine living in a world without the internet and social media. It makes us feel more connected to the world!
Notwithstanding the fact that the Internet and social media platforms have become almost an inevitable part of our society now, misinformation spread by word-of-mouth is increasing rapidly along with it. Nothing can be more dangerous than spreading fake news and misinformation.
While fake news is an increasingly used term to refer to shared falsehoods, misinformation is false or misleading information. Although the Oxford English Dictionary only added the term ‘fake news’ to the dictionary in 2019, the use of the term has increased over the years.
‘Fake news’ got its popularity during Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign in 2016, with Trump suggesting he created the term when, in fact, it has been around since the 19th century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
According to the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, which evaluates the environment for journalism in 180 countries and territories, the digital ecosystem’s fake content industry has had a rapid effect on press freedom.
In two-thirds of the countries evaluated by the Index, most of the Index questionnaire’s respondents reported that political actors in their countries were often or systematically involved in massive disinformation or propaganda campaigns.
“The difference is being blurred between true and false, real and artificial, jeopardising the right to information. The unprecedented ability to tamper with content is being used to undermine those who embody quality journalism and weaken journalism itself”, the Index report points out.
According to a recent Forbes report, an important development that is shaping and will continue to shape the media landscape in 2023 and beyond is the proliferation of fake news.
The disinformation industry disseminates manipulative content on a huge scale. “Digital technologies increasingly allow the spread of real information and content, but also of content that can appear to be real but it’s really not”, Nelson Granados, the contributor of the report says.
To drive home, he points out the developments in technologies enabled by artificial intelligence that allow the creation of unreal content that looks very real. For example, there are major advances in the creation of deepfake photos, audio, and videos that look real and in the meshing of recorded scenes with virtual sets.
Further confirming is the World Press Freedom Index report that AI is digesting content and regurgitating it in the form of syntheses that flout the principles of rigour and reliability.
“The remarkable development of artificial intelligence is wreaking further havoc on the media world”, it says.
According to the report, the fifth version of Midjourney, an AI programme that generates very high-definition images in response to natural language requests, has been feeding social media with increasingly plausible and undetectable fake “photos”.
We remember how those quite realistic-looking photos of Donald Trump being stopped by police officers and a comatose Julian Assange in a straitjacket went viral.
The technological ease of copying, pasting, clicking and sharing content online has helped misinformation and disinformation to proliferate. In some cases, stories are designed to provoke an emotional response and placed on certain sites in order to entice readers into sharing them widely.
Although the advent of the Internet has given individuals and organisations numerous ways to consume and disseminate information, misinformation masquerading as expert advice online can be detrimental to our collective growth.
People are increasingly getting worried about the fact that the news they come across is real or fake! It is high time for the media to tack more closely to professional standards and ethics, to eschew the publishing of unchecked information, and to take a distance from information which may interest some of the public but which is not in the public interest.