Facts or fake news? Africa Check will know

Henry

From Eminem encouraging South Africans to vote for the EFF, to claims that the president has been arrested.

Fake news is everywhere.

That is why Africa Check has made it their mission to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially with a national election imminent.

Carina van Wyk, head of education and training at Africa Check, says that people are particularly inclined to fall for and spread fake news in times of uncertainty.

“We don’t know what will happen in the upcoming election and that’s why people need to be extremely careful about what they believe and what they share on social media platforms.”

She says several pieces of false information generated by artificial intelligence (AI) – such as a video of Eminem inciting South Africans to vote for the EFF – have already started doing the rounds on social media.

A video of Donald Trump inciting voters to vote for ex-pres. Jacob Zuma’s new MK party to vote is also already widely distributed.

The organization’s “Election information hub” contains some of their latest reports and examples of false information being spread on social media and tips on how to verify information.

For example, researchers looked at the numerous promises made by the ruling ANC party and determined how many of these promises were kept and broken.

According to this article, the ANC has broken many of its earlier promises, these include important social concerns such as the reduction of violent crimes against vulnerable groups, visible policing and the implementation of a national health insurance.

The organization also checked allegations made by the DA to determine which allegations were correct.

According to Van Wyk, the spread of fake news is of course nothing new, “but today’s technology makes it so much easier to spread disinformation much faster and over so many more platforms”.

“Using AI also makes it possible to create multimedia content that doesn’t always look obvious like fake news.

“AI is getting better, so it can become more difficult for the public to determine whether something is real or not.”

Van Wyk says there is great concern that it will now increasingly be used to generate disinformation. “However, at this stage there are still a few things you can look out for to determine whether the information in front of you can be trusted or not.”

She says that body parts such as a person’s hands, fingers, ears and eyes can give away that the video is not real. “AI is still struggling with that at the stage. Sometimes persons in AI-generated material have four or six fingers. You don’t necessarily notice this at first glance, but if you are aware of this, you can look out for it.”

However, the most important thing remains: Always check what media organizations or organizations such as Africa Check say about it, or check other videos and photos of the person speaking and compare them with the material you have received.

Click here for more tips on how to distinguish between real information and AI-generated fake news.

According to Van Wyk, it is important to understand that anyone with access to the internet can lose something.

“For example, people regularly use their social media platforms to create and distribute information, photos and videos – without this being verified.”

However, Van Wyk believes that there are numerous ways to even determine the authenticity and origin of multimedia content.

“You can load a photo on Google and other search engines such as Microsoft Bing and TinEye to see when the photo and video were first taken or distributed. If consumers do this, they will be able to quickly see if the photo has been shared on the internet many times and how old the photo is.

AI can also point out fake news

Although AI is often used to generate fake news, according to Van Wyk it can also be used to check information.

“Especially in the run-up to this year’s election, Africa Check uses AI to verify information that is distributed. We use AI to sift through news platforms, government websites and any political statements to identify certain statements.

“It is incredibly time-consuming to sift through everything and AI makes it easier for us in this regard.”

Van Wyk says the media plays an incredibly important role in not only providing accurate facts to the public, but also in helping them make sense of the excess information that is shared daily.

Van Wyk says that although all social media platforms are used to spread fake news, people should be especially careful about information they receive on WhatsApp.

“Unless there is a link that takes the public to the original source, you often don’t know where the information comes from.

“If the information is true, several official news organizations will report on it. It is therefore important to always check what the media is reporting on.”

Africa Check has also established a WhatsApp group: “What’s crap on WhatsApp”, which the public can use to determine which information being spread on WhatsApp is simply fake news.

“Anyone can join and will receive tips on how to identify false information – especially now in the run-up to the election.

“People can also send us WhatsApps about information they suspect is false. We then verify some of these messages (especially those that are widespread and can be harmful) and share a summary of the fake information that people should be on the lookout for on the WhatsApp group.”

Send a WhatsApp to 082 709 3527 to join.

Van Wyk says it is extremely important that the public always ask themselves a few questions about the information they come across, regardless of whether it is distributed on social media platforms or information they come across on the internet. This includes questions about where the information comes from and whether it might be too good to be true.

“Anyone can verify facts and make sure they are not spreading fake news, just by looking critically at all information and asking themselves the right questions.”