Why are deep fakes a threat to democracy?

By Christian Bartsch

Election time is fake news time

Ahead of any election the political forces inside that country try to get the general public to follow their argumentation. This is not the only kind of influence that is happening in the minds of voters. With the massive influence of social media and online news people are subjected to a faster kind of information flow. This information tends to include deep fakes.  This is where governments outside that nation see an opportunity to get their desired candidates to take power over that nation. What used to happen in banana republics and during the cold war has now transitioned to a voting war inside the leading power houses. These outside sources try to spread misinformation by posting in social media deep fakes. Deep fakes are a threat to democracy.

What are deep fakes?

In the field of political misinformation we are experiencing a growing trend of spreading fake stories and news across social media and a variety of websites. Even blogs and forums are a popular location for spreading misleading information. This kind of information is based on the strategy of counter intelligence and influencing the opinion of the population in a target country. During wars the opponents used to drop leaflets out of planes to threaten or weaken the moral of population. Even troops were a target for such by getting people to spread rumours which would frighten small groups of soldiers who listen to chit chat.





How do deep fakes work?

The organisations that have been given the task to spread false information or promote a specific opinion enlist a number of content writers. These people have a variety of skills. They have language skills and are able to use social media to spread the fake information. These fake news agents create thousands of social media profiles on all sorts of platforms. Each team focuses on one platform (e.g. facebook). There they focus on one particular are and key message. This is where they dig deeper into the system and spread their deep fake news.

Why do people fall for fake news?

Furthermore, the fake news agents register a multitude of domains where they create lots of fake blogs. The websites are set up in a deceptive manner. Thereby, they can impersonate a person of influence and highlight their message. Some of the websites even mimic other existing websites of magazines and real influencers. The general public will not notice the difference and formulate their own opinion. This is where the threat to democracy begins to spread into the offline world. People start telling their friends what they found out.

People with limited education and limited computer skills can not spot the errors in these fake sites. Thereby, the manipulated content can be used to mislead voters and take the fake news beyond the reach of social media and the internet.The writing skills and the amount of separately placed articles create a cloud of false messages. You might ask why they are so successful. The units created to produce and spread the fake news are very successful in spreading their message because they have been given the necessary manpower to create thousands of conversations. Each post in fake blogs are based on individual articles.

What can we do as voters to protect the democracy?

As soon as we are given the right to vote by reaching a given age, we take the responsibility to protect our nation by participating in elections. You have to be aware of the presence of fake news. Contributing to society is important because decades ago many young people risked and gave their lives to liberate the world from a world of hatred. Unfortunately, man kind seems to not have learned a lot in the past 200 years. Wars are still being waged. Terrorist groups are tormenting population instead of looking for a peaceful way of promoting their political opinions.

The concept of false flag recruiting is a great way for fake news creators to recruit individuals to create and spread their fake stories. The leading social media platforms have been criticised for their role in spreading such fake news. They are trying to identify and remove such fake information. You can contribute to stopping such deep fake information activities.





Is main steam media free of deep fake news?

Do you read newspapers, magazines or watch television? Well, then you are consuming fake news every day. You just need to switch between the different news channels. Compare each core message and circle the information that is actually in all channels. In order to make this a little more understandable, let us take this example: the news highlights a car accident.

One channel reports the accident and bashes the manufacturer. The other channel complains about the bad road infrastructure. The next one claims  that electric cars are unsafe. The next one mentions that the person in the electric car only got bruises while the SUV driver needed hospital treatment. Every channel reports about this car accident but each one tries to influence the opinion of the listener in one particular direction (e.g. unsafe technology, local government failures).

Main Stream media spreads negative thoughts

Hence, the main stream media is not neutral. Just look at how different the actions of the US president Donald Trump is shown. This where people like Steve Bannon attest the US broadcasters of spreading fake news. Reality is that every side that has an interest in political results will want to spread their message to gain a success in this political arena. This kind of news does spread fear in the mind of young children as well as adults. People tend to not consume products when they are told that a recession will take their job away from them.

Taxes are also a great way of generating fear and great profits. When you want to buy lots of property then you want to get the real estate market prices down to an attractive level. You need to tell lots of people that they will soon not be able to pay their mortgages if they keep holding to a house that cost more than their financial assets allows them to pay off in a reasonable time frame of 0 years.

Independent media charges for content and keeps fake news out

When you look at the way fake news is spread you become aware that free platforms like instagram, twitter and blogs are a great place to spread thousands of fake messages. When you look at magazines that have a different content strategy than the main stream media you notice that the quantity of articles is less. That is because quality articles need time and money to be created. When deep fake news tries to be spread the organisations that are sending out all that fake news do not pay for the spreading.

Hence, the quantity of fake news is massive in media that publishes 3rd party content free of charge. That leads to fake information not being properly checked as the editorial teams of large papers are shrinking. Readers are no longer willing to pay as much as before to consume information. The main stream media that is shrinking has to cut jobs at the cost of quality. Reviewing an article takes time. The quantity of press releases flowing into the organisations is growing but much of it can not be really used for a news paper.