NORBERT HORVATH: How to Stop Fake News

What Vemba's doing to Stop Fake News and "Deep Fake" Videos

This post was originally published on Medium.

Why Content Validation Will Save Us

deep fake image of Obama

Recently I watched a video of Barack Obama calling Donald Trump a “dipshit” and it shook me to the core. Not that it either confirmed or disputed a personal political opinion — this post is definitely not about that — but this deep fake video made me realize that society entered the age of trolls, misquoted state actors, and false economic forecasts. At best, fake news harms constructive dialogue or reputations. At worst (as some claim), it could result in stock market crashes, international conflict, and war.

Certainly, fake news and its effects are not science fiction, the threat is so palpable that DARPA, the U.S. defense agency responsible for emerging military technology, has already assembled an official media forensics lab to reliably identify fakes. Corporate and academic initiatives are studying the threat that this erosion of journalistic integrity poses to our society.

Consequently, as I’ve thought about fake news from the perspective of an analyst, it is clearly a business process improvement problem. Solving fake news does not need to rely on journalistic best practices, policy enforcement, libel suits, or counter campaigns.

What makes Fake News Possible? Commercial Models.

What then does it rely on; what in fact makes news (and as an extension fake news) possible? It’s simple really. The commercial models that finance (or “monetize”) the distribution of any news. The brands that sponsor directly or indirectly the producers and publishers of news and entertainment through advertisement and branded content campaigns.

Thus, the more views a piece of content receives, the more advertisement it stands to display. The more sensationalist the content, the more it plays into the echo chambers that allow it to be consumed at a faster rate. The more consumption, the more advertisement is stands to display. “Pope Francis endorsing Trump” or “Hillary Clinton selling Weapons to Isis” (two of some of the most popular fake stories during the 2016 Presidential Election) will reach a target audience six (SIX) times quicker than a boring less divisive but true article, as an MIT/Twitter collaboration study found. Retweets will be 70% more likely — same study. Truth cannot compete with hoax.

Furthermore, who pays for the site or the video stream that now has a 70% higher likelihood of being retweeted? Would the brands and advertisers still pay the publisher for the display of an ad if they knew the a fake news content mill produced it, intending to antagonize and maximize viewer volumes?

The Solution is Content Authentication

First of all, let’s take the solution to where the money is. We can make news guaranteed true and safe by making fake news economically inviable. If we authenticate the source and inform the advertisers at the point of the financial transaction that what they are about to sponsor is not worth sponsoring, we can remove the financial incentive to fake news and ensure brands are operating with brand safety.

Because of this, content syndication begins where the editorial process ends. Being in this industry now for a decade, my goal is to find an answer to this problem. Not only do “Deep fake” videos threaten us socially and economically, they also threaten our own personal freedoms as well.

This is the first of many posts aiming to disassemble the construct of what make fake news possible. I will discuss content authentication, editorial intent, and best practices. I hope to share my findings on how the different participants of news production, editorial integrity, distribution, advertising, publishers, and rights owners can collaborate with technological advancements to ensure the true news they produce comes with a seal of approval (and more idealistically fake news goes the way of the dodo).

Above all–Content Validation and Authentication is a growth industry … and it is the right (and profitable) thing to do.

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