Is the war against fake news lost?

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By ELIANE SILVEIRA*

If we still do not have a legal framework, nor institutions sufficiently prepared to combat fake news, this does not mean sitting idly by.

The war against fake news Are you lost? Are we all Cervantes' Quixotes fighting against giant mills, which are nothing more than the untouchable big techs? If in biblical times Saint Thomas needed to see (and touch) to believe, in the present day, marked by deep fakes, it is difficult to believe our own eyes and ears.

If we still do not have a legal framework or institutions sufficiently prepared to combat fake news, this does not mean sitting idly by. This is what the newest initiative of the Riograndense Press Association (ARI) shows us, which launched, this April, the campaign: “Doubt what you see, hear and read”.

In an election year, concern about the spread of fake news increases, which increases the sensitivity of authorities and entities to the issue. It is with this sense of opportunity that the Riograndense Press Association launches its provocative campaign. At first, she warns us to doubt everything. To then invite us not to remain in doubt, consulting professional journalism sources, combining, at the same time, the fight against fake news and the defense of the diploma for practicing journalism.

As we say in Rio Grande do Sul, the campaign “pulls the heat on your roast” by allowing the presumption that professional journalism is that practiced in the newsrooms of the traditional newspaper, radio and TV media, the popular “big press”. We know, however, that the commitment to the truth is not always present in these vehicles, and, in some, it even goes far. Perhaps that is why, in 2021, the global index of trust in the press was the lowest since 2012, according to a 2021 survey by the Edelman Trust Barometer. Out of 28 countries surveyed, Brazil ranked 16th in terms of the population's level of trust in the press.

This observation is necessary so that it is not considered that social networks and WhatsApp have a monopoly on fake news. And even less so that one ignores extremely serious sources materialized on progressive and alternative portals, websites and blogs. The commitment to the truth also has many channels of expression on the most diverse social networks and has quality journalism being produced on Facebook pages and several YouTube channels.

In relation to the means, we cannot be definitive about a dichotomy between good and evil. Although it is necessary to recognize the greater ease of dissemination and proliferation of fake news on social networks and via WhatsApp. Research from the University of Oxford (2020) points out that the “overwhelming majority of disinformation sites depend on the main online advertising platforms to generate revenue, and 61% of them use Google ads”. According to data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published in a report by Journal of USP, "to the fake news spread 70% faster than real news".

According to an article published by the website Politicize, Brazil has 136 million WhatsApp users, which corresponds to 60% of the population. In this same publication, the Portal brings data collected by the Ideia Big Data institute (2019) showing that “in Brazil, 52% of people trust news sent by family through social media and 43% trust news sent by friends”. In this scenario, the challenge launched by Rio Grande do Sul journalists provokes us to think about some dimensions of confronting fake news.

Artificial intelligence

Last year, the commercial for the new Kombi, which featured Elis Regina singing with Maria Rita, brought to light the debate about ethics in advertising. Almost at the same time, the strike by North American actors and actresses drew attention to the reuse of these artists' images and voices in future productions through artificial intelligence reproduction.

A practice that also haunts the world of politics, on the eve of yet another electoral campaign, where candidates can be placed in scenarios they have not been in, carrying out criminal or dubious actions and even verbalizing what they never said. Situations that go far beyond the almost naive joke of putting Robert Downey Jr in some scenes from the film “Back to the Future”, recorded in 1985.

In an article published in University Newspaper (UFRGS), Ivan Quintana recalls that Artificial Intelligence is “a global reality, permeating 77% of the devices we use on a daily basis”. The author highlights that “Artificial Intelligence has become a powerful ally, but it is not free from ethical issues: 67% of people fear the collection of personal data by artificial intelligence systems, raising profound questions about privacy and transparency”.

Media education

Since the 2018 elections, where the weight of fake news In the electoral results it was more felt, experts in the areas of law, communication and academia have defended the need for a media education process. It is believed that, through education, it is possible to gradually make the population aware of not disseminating content without properly checking the information.

The Common National Curricular Base (BNCC) for basic education establishes, among the general competencies: “Understanding, using and creating digital information and communication technologies in a critical, meaningful, reflective and ethical way in various social practices (including school ones) to communicate, access and disseminate information, produce knowledge, solve problems and exercise protagonism and authorship in personal and collective life.” However, its application in everyday school life tends to be restricted in the face of a secondary education reform that cuts the workload of subjects such as sociology and philosophy.

The proposed task, however, goes beyond the field of education, encompassing communication and culture. With this understanding, the Lula government held the 1st National Media Education Journey last year, where the document Brazilian Media Education Strategy was presented, which defends the implementation of the concept of educommunication; the application of the Marco Civil da Internet guidelines; educational practices integrated with the areas of health, culture and social assistance, among others; the need to adopt measures in relation to Artificial Intelligence; and actions focused, especially, on children, adolescents and the elderly, who have been the biggest targets of fake news.

Fact checking and other initiatives

If in 2018 the proliferation of fake news impacted the electoral process, during the Covid-19 pandemic they may be responsible for many deaths that could have been avoided. Amid the gigantic challenge of facing a new virus, the scientific community found itself thrown back into the XNUMXth century to, once again, have to prove the effectiveness of vaccines and the ineffectiveness of medicines not tested and proven by surveillance agencies.

To face such a flood of false information, where even logos of newspapers and media portals were falsified in graphic works pulverized by WhatsApp, agencies and professionals dedicated to fact checking became increasingly demanded. Even so, in Brazil, only three verification agencies have an active seal in the International Fact Checking Alliance (Lupa, Aos Fatos, Estadão Verifica). In addition to these, the group Globe offers the Fact or Fake checking service. There are also a number of websites dedicated to denying fakes, such as Boatos.com; or E-Scams; between others.

In the opinion of experts, the agencies do not have sufficient structure to deny the enormity of false information in a country where, in 2022, four in ten people reported receiving fake news every day, according to news from CNN Brazil. Hence the importance of initiatives such as the Media Education Journey; such as the Program to Combat Disinformation, of the Superior Electoral Court; the Fiocruz Combating Misinformation Guide; and the Information Check Tool for professionals in the field, launched by the Federal Nursing Council; among many other experiences that are multiplying throughout the country.

It is in this vein that the campaign by the Riograndense Press Association must be welcomed, which encourages us to have the right and duty to doubt what we see, hear and read. An update to the digital times of René de Descartes' method: I think, therefore I doubt.

*Eliane Silveira is a journalist and has a degree in Social Sciences.

References


Like artificial intelligence, deepfakes and checking agencies operate in the disinformation arena – Jornal da USP

Social Networks and Fake News: how does the combination impact society? | Politicize!

Artificial intelligence, metaverse, post-truth, deepfakes and fake news – UFRGS – Jornal da Universidade

FENAJ asks the Ministry of Labor to be more rigorous in granting professional registrations – FENAJ

G1 > Brazil – NEWS – STF removes diploma requirement to practice the profession of journalist (globo.com)

Journalism: what it is (definition and concept) – Encyclopedia Meanings

https://blog.khanacademy.org/pt-br/educacao-midiatica

15 sites to check Fake News and see if the news is true in 2021 (mundointerpessoal.com)

4 in 10 Brazilians say they receive fake news daily | CNN Brazil


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