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This Week in Misinformation: The Winter of AI Discontent, Oath Keepers Sentencing, Fake Pentagon Pic
25 May 2023
This Week in Misinformation No. 92
25 May 2023
Keeping up on misinformation is basically the best thing you can do for your brain. So glad you’re here!
Give this newsletter a share, won’t you? Posting a snippet to social can be a good taste for people in your network, or sending this email directly also tends to work well. 🙂
Reliability scores for media outlets cited in the summary are in parentheses for each, courtesy of the terrific folks at Ad Fontes Media.
Now, on to our top stories.
The AI-on-misinformation news notched a bit bleaker this week.
Increasingly, experts are warning that AI-driven disinformation is going to put upcoming elections in the US and UK at risk (The Guardian, 41.93). Other experts say AI will have a role, but expect that it will have more to do with which campaigns use it better to do mundane tasks rather than generate fake images or text (Roll Call, 46.31). Either way, don’t get your politics news from Nextdoor (The Atlantic, 38.37).
But it goes way beyond elections: AI-generated content is all up in the news and even product reviews (New York Times, 42.04). Generally, it’s simply getting harder to trust what you read online (CNBC, 44.87), and importantly AI is not looking too helpful as a means to detect generated by AI (oneunderscore__ via Twitter). Good luck to all humans when the tsunami hits.
Oath Keepers were sentenced for January 6th sedition.
Having been found guilty by a trial of their peers a while back, a judge handed down sentences of 18 and 12 years behind bars, respectively, for leaders of the Oath Keepers militia Stewart Rhodes (New York Times) and Kelly Meggs (Fox News, 24.83). These sentences were well beyond those earned by other January 6th defendants on trial for lesser crimes (CBS News, 44.09), but within the sentencing guidelines and less than what prosecutors asked for.
Not that this makes anything better--other than maybe as a deterrent for the next time a political leader whips up the passions of their supporters to subvert our democratic processes. The people who were subjected to the mob’s violent assault, for example, still have to live with that trauma no matter who goes to jail for perpetrating it (Politico, 42.60).
And, it should be noted, not all January 6th Capitol attackers are doing worse than before, depending on how MAGA Republican their governor is (USA Today, 41.40).
Sometimes a fake picture going viral can ruin millions of people’s days all at once.
The one this week was of a supposed explosion near the Pentagon (Ars Technica, 46.34) that was thankfully not too hard to determine was made by AI--those days will soon end!--of an event which authorities on the scene confirmed didn’t happen (@billdmccarthy via Twitter).
This made-for-and-by-Twitter fiasco was not Elon Musk’s fault exactly, but it can’t help that he destroyed what it means to be "verified" as an account (ABC News, 46.45). Others who pay for their blue and gold checks, for example Russian media, helped get the word out before deleting with a non-apology. Ultimately, the fake Bloomberg (!) Twitter handle was suspended, so that’s positive.
As annoying as it is to be fooled by this, millions of people who knew nothing about it were impacted when the stock market briefly dipped on what it at first thought was evidence of a real attack. (Insider, 42.06). Get ready for more of this, people.
Of course we all missed the grab bag last week very much: A “crunchy” mom leaves behind the QAnon lifestyle; back in 2018 the FBI actually opened an investigation into the Internet poster called Q; when police find a Nazi flag in a truck attacking the White House, some people get suspicious in suspiciously similar ways; the death of an anti-vaccine personality prompts, what else, conspiracy theories; no, QAnon isn't close to gone from main; in defense of ”Instagram face”; Biden’s White House released national strategy to counter antisemitism; there’s a new tech policy institute in town; there’s a new :information environment" panel out and about; the Chinese government wields disinformation tactics against the Dalai Lama; a look at the truth fails of the just-launched Ron DeSantis campaign; and a fake climate change theory goes viral after Joe Rogan talked about it.
All that, and a lot more, below. This is This Week in Misinformation.