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A couple of tricks to detect fake news and deep fakes

As you know, there is genuine concern about fake news and deep fakes (
fake videos). Well, there are a couple of tricks that I would like to share here. They seem like something too simple, but they are at the root of these information pathologies and therefore work very well to deactivate these bombs before they are viralized or simply believed. Before that, if you have a while, read
This enlightening article that the American cryptgago Bruce Schneier published in 2018 about democracies and false news.

A zero to the left

The first trick has to do with the way computers work. While we can afford to use the decimal number system, with which it is possible to represent very large numbers with few digits, the machines only comprise one and zero. The good news is that they don't care if the amount of digits is huge. For them, deep down, they are not even ones and zeros, but electric charges and signals that we interpret as ones and zeros.

What follows from this is that everything you see on the screen is an illusion. Moreover, the original sin of all these technologies (and that includes all Internet services, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and your smartphone, among others) is that even what is true constitutes an illusion. Underneath, there are only ones and zeros. The machines also dispense with paper, acetate, vinyl or any other analog medium.

Manipulating ones and zeros was always possible, but now it is becoming easier. When manipulating them, the illusion we see on the screens is altered, and the false happens seamlessly for something true. Vice versa, before computers, these alterations were very cumbersome. An anecdote from my few photographer clarify this situation.

At 18 I got a kind of internship in a local environment. Of course, I made few photos and a lot of laboratory, which is usually more boring than field work. One of the tasks assigned to me (are you sitting?) Was to crop photos of footballs. I know it sounds weird. But every Sunday I spent a couple of hours trimming soccer balls from football matches. I had to choose from different sizes and illuminated from every possible angle. I'm fine, don't worry, I'm not suffering some kind of outbreak. This story is 100% true. Now, what were those soccer ball cuts used for?

Well, the point is that at the speed at which football is played and with the limitations of the teams of that time, many photos of goals scored with the ball out of the box. Then the editor went to the box full of cuts, elega a ball of the right size and lighting, and hit it in the portrait of the goal. Its not cute?

It may sound innocent, given the circumstances, and quite harmless. But it was a way of modifying the reality that seemed insane to me. The next day, I thought, hundreds of thousands of readers will believe in an image that has been altered to increase their drama or emotional load. It was something like an analog Photoshop, with pure scissors and a good pulse.

Today a photo or video is a collection of ones and zeros. Since it doesn't make much sense to humans to show ones and zeros, the first step is to transform them into something understandable. So, even when there is no manipulation, in the digital age (the era of digits; the French say
numrique) Everything we see and do on computers, cell phones and the Internet is the result of a transformation.

This is the first mental trick we have to incorporate. Our mind sees a photo and believes it is a photo of something real. In general, that assumption can be verified; We took a picture and immediately we see something on the screen that we know is real. But, having said that, I would like to remember that during the 13 years of the reign of Windows XP, the system started with an image, called Bliss, where you can see an idyllic hill and a beautiful sky. That image was the manipulation of
A photo taken by Charles O'Rear.

My point of view

The second trick is mental. It has to do with the point of view. All photos and videos are recorded by someone. Someone also uploads them to the Internet. Therefore, if an official photo of a candidate appears with a text that proclaims a mockery, that may mean one of two: either the press office of that candidate is useless or is a fake news. He will say that in 99% of cases it is the latter. OKAY; let's do 95 percent.

The same goes for deep fakes. Seriously, no advisor suggested to the candidate that this video was extremely inconvenient? Rare. Very rare. Too weird.

In this section we have, of course, the fact that we live in a world where there are cameras or microphones all the time. It is more difficult to deal with these scenarios, but not impossible, precisely because we are surrounded by cameras. If the candidate, the actor, the celebrity or the famous sportsman appears publicly saying some barbarity, it should not be impossible to contrast it with other records of that same act.

It is really complicated to assume the fact that photos and videos always have a person behind them. But as soon as we put ourselves in his place, the record that until that moment looked like a news bomb starts to lose credibility. Of course, a journalist's job is to verify whether a piece of information (that photo, that video) is true or not. But he dedicates all his day to this task and is paid to do it. The one who creates fake news and deep fakes has the rest of the people do not have (at least) the time to walk verifying everything. But if at least we manage to incorporate the fact that it is no longer necessary to cut football balls and that the photos and videos are not produced and published alone, we may no longer be fertile ground for those who vandalize the information.


(tagsToTranslate) A couple of tricks to detect fake news and deep fakes – LA NACION

A couple of tricks to detect fake news and deep fakes
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