01 May 2023 Anticipating a Fake News Pandemic
A lot of talk about fake news and chatbots like ChatGBT-4, Bing AI, Jasper, Bard and FreedomGPT. One concern is what threats they pose to the integrity of professional journalism.
“This tool is going to be the most powerful tool for spreading misinformation that has ever been on the internet,” said Gordon Crovitz, a co-chief executive of NewsGuard, a company that tracks online misinformation… “Crafting a new false narrative can now be done at dramatic scale, and much more frequently – it’s like having A.I. agents contributing to disinformation” (“Disinformation Researchers Raise Alarms About A.I. Chatbots”, The New York Times, 8 February 2023).
This at a time when the stalwarts of independent, impartial news gathering are treated with contempt, tarred with the brush of political and/or socialist bias. It is no secret that several governments are actively disseminating “news” and misinformation based on their own anti-liberal agendas.
For example – and these are certainly not the only ones – Russia has been churning out internal and external propaganda to try to convince its own peoples and the rest of the world that its war on Ukraine is justified and not of its own making. Russian media outlets have been closed and journalists arrested. Fortunately, there are credible, unbiased sources offering alternative narratives.
The Moscow Times is Russia’s leading, independent English-language media outlet. In its own words, it provides “readers across the world with breaking news, engaging stories and balanced reporting about the largest country on Earth.”
As a result of legislation on “fake news” passed by the Russian parliament in March 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine, The Moscow Times relocated its journalists abroad and opened a temporary newsroom in Yerevan, Armenia. In addition, it took steps to safeguard its staff: articles sometimes appear without bylines or, at the discretion of editors, under a pseudonym.
Taiwan is the object of intensive disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks organized on mainland China and directed against the Taiwanese government and anyone advocating independent sovereignty. In a country where outlets still reflect a diversity of views and report aggressively on government policy, Taipei Times and Taiwan News offer alternative views.
There is little doubt that Russia and China are using AI and bot technologies to generate fake news with the specific aim of discrediting independent news outlets and persuading gullible readers and viewers that they are the good guys. But it’s a David and Goliath situation. Government backed and financed propaganda on the scale of a Goliath is pitted against an under-resourced and decentralised David.
We are seeing already a trend among mainstream news outlets that take on a “fact checking” role in addition – or perhaps instead of – original reporting. We need to ask ourselves as individuals and organisations how we also promote trusted news and counter systematic disinformation. Whether generated by AI or via more traditional propaganda channels, fake news will always be a “reality” that we as supporters of open and truthful communication must address.
Photo: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek