Seeing the Round Corners

July 1, 2019


Today’s commentary begins an unknown number of columns on fake news and what is being referred to as a new type of synthetic media known as deepfakes. Before the columns begin on that subject matter, a little background.

The vast population of America tends to aggrandize itself into believing it is the foremost leader in all new technology. That is a subject of endless discussion, but was pretty much the case some twenty-five years ago. Think back to say about 1994 when the spread of information in the United States was pretty much controlled by the major television and radio networks, newspapers, magazines and book publishers.

The information revolution as it is known today has disrupted this content distribution model, according to Siva Vaidhyanathan in the Googlization of Everything(And Why We Should Worry).

Readers may also want to think about this question posted by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu:  Who Owns The Internet?  A difficult question to answer easily when one considers how  “innumerable platforms facilitate global connectivity.” The answer to ownership of the internet is difficult to answer because as Goldsmith/Wu state the case in Who Owns The Internet:  “The Internet visible in China is vastly different from the Internet visible in the EU, which is different from the Internet in the United States.”

As most readers have observed as the social media companies have been hauled before Congress, their excuse is almost that “we can’t control content, i.e., its freedom of speech.” But, there are various ways of “gatekeeping,” – “pressure from or adhere to legal mandates of, government’s block or filter certain information like hate speech or ‘fake news’.”

With today’s vast number of news outlets and rush to be first with breaking news, there is far less screening of content for accuracy, suppression of facts or opinions that some authority deems undesirable.

In a research paper by lawyers Robert Chesney and Danielle Keats Citron, content is described as not only “finding its way to online audiences, but can circulate far and wide, sometimes going viral.” The paper goes on to explain how two phenomena – the “information cascade” dynamic and “filter bubbles” – make this possible. More on this in a later column.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal is voicing its position on fake news and deepfakes:   “Artificial intelligence is fueling the next phase of misinformation. The new type of synthetic media known as deepfakes poses major challenges for newsrooms when it comes to verification.”

The Wall Street Journal views the fake news and the new type of synthetic media known as deepfakes so serious as to launch an internal deepfakes task force comprised of video, photo, visuals, research, platform and news editors who have been trained in deepfake detection – to be known as the WSJ Media Forensics Committee.

That coverage will begin a few columns down the road, so stay tuned.

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at