Fake news is not just a social media problem - it’s eroding our trust in news outlets, shaping our views on global topics and is now a major threat to democracy the world over.
Disinformation and misinformation are thought to have such a powerful impact on elections and therefore our day-to-day lives, that European governments are taking action. French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed that ‘during elections social media would face tougher rules over the content that they put online’ and the UK Government are investigating the effects of fake news on behavior.
As part of this Parliamentary inquiry, Crisp’s CEO, Adam Hildreth, gave evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee about how the fake news crisis can be solved and how we can help social platforms do this. He told the Committee that as teams of people are trying to solve the crisis, ‘bad actors’ (the people creating and promoting fake news stories) are finding new ways to evade detection. "The bad actors are who the war is with, and this is a war", Adam said.
“The bad actors are who the war is with. And this is a war”
The Select Committee asked industry and academic leaders about a range of issues surrounding fake news, including why it is such a powerful tool and the sophisticated profiling techniques those spreading fake news use to target specific groups with misinformation.
Dr Charles Kriel from the Corsham Institute shared how this new combination of propaganda sent through dark social media posts to highly-targeted people or groups was so effective in influencing opinion and inciting action – or inaction, in the case of not voting in general elections.
How do you promote truth when misinformation is more viral?
One of the reasons fake news is so prolific is that the false headline is often more enticing than the truth, so people can’t help but click on the social ad and then share the story with their social network.
Adam Hildreth told the Select Committee that because these ‘bad actors’ are experts at finding new ways of getting sensational stories shared on social media and manipulating people’s views, the way Crisp are tackling fake news is to understand the behavior of the bad actors.
Bad actors generate fake news to exploit and defraud people. By using sophisticated behavior profiling techniques to find the people behind the fake news we can identify the source of the misinformation.
“Whether it’s child exploitation, fake news distribution, cybercriminals, only 1% - a tiny minority - of people using the social web are out there for bad, but they’re causing 99%, if not 100%, of the issues there.”
Rather than focusing on the individual pieces of fake news, it’s critical to focus on the bad actors creating fake news and helping the social platforms to find these people. Once we understand the behavior of these people, we can intervene to stop bad actors targeting people and sharing fake news.
Crisp has been developing behavior profiling for over 12 years, but it’s the intervention part that now needs refining. Adam said, "Social platforms want to solve fake news, but it is hard for anyone to solve. It’s not a social platform issue, it’s an entire community issue. How do you intervene? You do have a freedom of speech issue - who’s there to decide if that person is a bad actor. Is it a general consensus that something makes you a bad actor when it comes to fake news distribution? Or is it that the social platforms individually do that?”
Listen to the session in full to hear more on how bad actors spread fake news and what Crisp is doing already to help social platforms combat the issue.