BuzzFeed Writer: Why Can’t Google, Facebook Get a Grip on Fake News?

What’s going on?

Humans haven’t been replaced by machines yet in at least one area: spotting news hoaxes. BuzzFeed senior writer Charlie Warzel joined Glenn and Stu today to talk about the tech world’s fake news problem and urge lawmakers to sit up and take notice of developing technology before it gets completely out of hand.

Give me the quick version:

After the tragic shooting in Florida last week, journalists and researchers noticed dozens of hoaxes that were going viral; impersonations of journalists; and posts and videos that claimed the victims were actors. All of those things violate the rules for platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Parkland marked the third time in four months that these tech companies had slipped up by allowing total misinformation about tragedies to be shared freely on their platforms, BuzzFeed reported. Why can’t they seem to do better?

Politicians need to wake up.

As technology advances, it’s getting more and more difficult to know what’s real and what’s fake. Warzel urged lawmakers to put in “safeguards” now before obscure Reddit threads become mainstream misinformation. How will we trust our eyes and ears when video and audio can be easily faked?

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

GLENN: Every once in a while, we need to take a step back. Everybody right now is screaming, fake news, fake news. Both sides are doing it, and in some ways, both sides are right.

We're getting to a place that soon, you're not going to be able to believe your eyes and ears. And people don't really realize this. There's a guy named Aviv Ovadya. He predicted the fake news explosion. And now he's saying, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But that's just the beginning. That's nothing compared to what's on the recent or -- or near horizon.

STU: Yeah. Infopocalypse, potentially. And there's a great story about this in Buzzfeed from Charlie Warzel. It's a story about what's coming next.

Charlie Warzel is a reporter for Buzzfeed. Also writes something -- one of my favorite things to read, which because it's about Infowars and sort of that conspiracy media. And it's -- his last name is Warzel. It's called InfoWarzel, which is the greatest name of all time. It's a newsletter, and it's really worth your attention as well. He joins us now from Montana, Charlie, is that where you are?

CHARLIE: That's right. Missoula, Montana. Thanks for having me.

GLENN: You bet.

So, Charlie, I can't seem to get people to really get their arms around the idea that soon, we're not going to even know what reality is, and we don't -- we won't care.

JORDAN: Well, it's -- it's complicated, to some extent. But the best way that I can describe it is that these sort of hall of mirrors that we're sort of experiencing online right now. As you guys were saying earlier, everyone is sort of calling fake news with -- with sort of bad actors, acting in bad faith, putting out, you know, propaganda and content that's designed to manipulate. That isn't true.

All those things that we see, you know, in our Facebook feeds, in Twitter right now.

It's all going to potentially get far worse because the technology is going to allow it to come from people that perhaps we know.

So the -- you know, the -- the fake news that you're seeing, the misinformation, the propaganda, it could start coming from, you know, a loved one. You know, you could start getting emails from them, telling you things that didn't happen that were generated algorithmically. So it's not really that something new is going to happen. It's that everything happening right now, all this unrest, discord, confusion, and difficulty, sort of parsing reality, is going to become so much more sophisticated because of technology, that hasn't even been invented yet.

GLENN: What do you mean that you're going to get -- that you'll get something from your loved ones?

CHARLIE: Sure. So Aviv, the researcher who I spoke with, alongside many others who are doing, you know, really great work, sort of understanding how these platforms work. And the technology that's on the horizon. Aviv has this -- this term. And it's called laser fishing. So regular fishing, or spearphishing is when you maybe get a link from something -- an email address that is a couple characters off from somebody you know. And it's saying, hey, click this link. And then that link asks you for, you know, your password information. It's sort of a classic hacker trick. It's pretty low-tech.

This would sort of be something that would happen. Laser fishing is using AI and sort of this artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand things about you, understand the people that you talk to.

The conversation you have across social media with other people. Mine all that information. And then use it to manipulate you. So instead of getting an email from someone who -- who sounds like they could be somebody you own, the email is going to come from ostensibly someone you know, and it's going to have information that's pertinent to you. Information that you were perhaps expecting to hear from. So you're so much more likely to believe this information. And then offer things up.

You know, there's a lot of people -- Nigerian princes on the internet who are asking for money. But what if that person is your brother. And your brother says that he had a car accident. And he's stuck and needs to repair his car. Because you were having a conversation about, you know, cars and money or something like that along the line.

So this is -- being able to manipulate people, at the click of a mouse or a button, in this -- in this artificial intelligence way. And I think that -- I think that we're -- we're falling for the low-tech, low-fi stuff right now. So it's going to be hard to imagine, you know, how we can get up to speed on the other stuff.

STU: And the future of this, Charlie, goes even further than just say an email. It could be even audio or video coming from the people that you know convincing you to do something that winds up completely burning you.

CHARLIE: Absolutely. And I think you can see this not just in people asking for money, or you know, asking you for information. But this can be -- this can be used to manipulate government and diplomacy.

GLENN: Uh-huh.

CHARLIE: It's not hard to envision -- and many people sort of have already been talking about this. But it's not hard to envision any lawmaker has hundreds of hours of footage on themselves, either audio or video on the internet. The machine learning programs can take that. Can absorb it. And then what they can -- what they can do with that is -- is produce very hard -- hard to verify and real-looking video of people saying anything.

So, you know, you could have a video of Donald Trump potentially down the line, really antagonizing in -- in an aggressive way, North Korea.

And the stakes of that get higher and higher as the reaction times are -- are shorter. And people have to respond.

So you could really escalate, you know, political and -- and, you know, diplomatic tensions using this kind of technology.

GLENN: So I was talking about this, at the beginning of the year. And I laid out just some crazy predictions. And one of them was, if be the not this election of 2018, by 2020, this will be used in an effective way. And we may not know about it until after the election. But we are that close to this kind of stuff being used. Would you agree with that?

CHARLIE: Well, I think with the artificial intelligence stuff, with the video and audio manipulation, we may be a little further down the line from that. Because the real worry is not just some incredibly sophisticated programmer or one-off type person is going to be able to use this, who has, you know, access -- proprietary technology.

The real thing is when it becomes democratized, when you can manipulate -- when anyone with two or three hours of research on the internet, can do this.

And that, I think we're a little bit further off, but not too far. There are some -- some forums.

There's a forum on the site Reddit, which is called deepfakes. And it is where people are manipulating video right now.

Some of it is awful. Some of it is pornographic and very disturbing. But others are just -- you can go and look for yourself, are funny. People putting Nicholas Cage's face on Arnold Schwarzenegger.

GLENN: I don't know why Nicholas Cage is this guy. But his face is almost on everybody.

(laughter)

CHARLIE: He's an internet sensation.

GLENN: Yeah, he is.

CHARLIE: But, you know, it speaks to -- when people are kind of playing around with this, having fun with it, doing it in their spare time because it's entertaining, that is sort of a harbinger of something that is sort of scary, which you could in two or three hours, figure out how to do this yourself.

I think we're a little further than -- I think 2020, who knows. But it's definitely coming.

GLENN: I hope you're right.

Tell me a little bit about what Aviv talks about and describes as reality apathy.

CHARLIE: Sure.

It's basically the combination of all of this that we're talking about. Which is these sophisticated technological tools to sort of distort what's real and what's not. To the point where you become overwhelmed by the idea of all -- say you're being laser fished by, you know, 20 people. And when you go online and try to click a news link, you're not sure where the source is coming from, whether it's something you can trust, whether it's something you're not.

You're just besieged by what you believe is misinformation, but you can't even tell. So you start to disengage.

You know, if your inbox is something where you don't know what you're getting, what's real or what's not, you're going to maybe give up. And that is sort of -- that works also with -- with diplomacy. If people start, you know, spoofing calls to Congress, to lobby their lawmakers about some political issue, if that happens in a -- in a spoofing way so much that people can't get through on the lines, they're going to stop participating in -- in democracy, in that particular way. They might, you know, stop going online and sharing their own opinions or feel unsafe. They might just say, you know what, the news, it's just not worth it for me. That's scary.

GLENN: But going the other way as well, if you see a bunch of stuff that is fake and you don't know what to believe, somebody in power could actually be doing some really bad stuff. And nobody would know. Nobody would pay attention. They would say, well, that's just fake. Because that's what the politician would say.

CHARLIE: Yeah, an informed citizenry is a cornerstone of democracy.

GLENN: So how do we inform ourselves, going forward? Who is standing against this? How do we protect -- I mean, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. What do we do?

CHARLIE: Well, I think -- this is why I wanted to highlight Aviv's work. And, you know, I -- he's becoming labeled as sort of the person who called the misinformation fake news crisis before it became a thing. He's one of many. There are -- there are, you know, dozens of researchers like this, who are lobbying tech companies, thinking about this, on sort of the vanguard of this movement.

And I think journalists, news organizations, highlighting these people's work, giving them a platform to talk about this, is the first step. The second step is really, you know, putting pressure on these technology companies. And not just Facebook or Google or Twitter. But, you know, the hardware makers. People like Adobe, who -- people like potentially Apple. Companies that are starting -- that are going to be making this audio visual technology. And making them sort of understand that innovation is okay.

But we have to learn our lessons from, you know, this whole fake news situation that we're dealing with right now. And build this technology responsibly, with all of these sort of externalities baked in, and understand what we can -- that these things can be abused. So let's put in the safeguards now, instead of later.

STU: I think you could see tech companies at times, be a little bit absorbed by self-interest. But they're not nefarious actors, right?

My -- my issue with this, when I try to find optimism in the future here, Charlie, is eventually state actors. Hacker groups. Someone with actual nefarious intent, that you can't go and lobby and you don't have people with ethics trying to deal with are going to get control of this stuff and do things that are going to be really harmful and maybe irreversible.

CHARLIE: I think that is potentially true. I mean, all of this -- it's difficult. Because we're in speculation territory. It's difficult as a journalist, writing about this about going too far. You know, scaring people too much. But, I mean, I think what this -- what the last 18 months of sort of information crisis world that we're in, should be teaching us right now. Is that this is everyone's problem. Law makers, you know, need to get smart on this stuff quick. They need to, you know, be putting pressure on --

GLENN: Not going to happen.

CHARLIE: And I think they need to spend time, you know, really understanding this technology --

GLENN: Yes.

CHARLIE: -- themselves. And getting the government ready. There's not a lot of task forces here, to combat computational propaganda or misinformation.

GLENN: Charlie, look how we're dealing with Russia. Everybody is talking about, oh, well, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton. Russia. Look at what Russia is doing. We can get to the rest of that and, you know, if somebody did something, they should go to jail. But we're missing the point, that Russia has come in and -- and announced, in advance, what they were going to do. And they did it.

CHARLIE: I think that what -- state-sponsored actors, all of this -- it's clearly manipulatable by them. And I think that we -- I think that that's certainly one -- one piece of the puzzle. I think that -- I think that this technology, we've spent so long thinking that this technology is a -- a universal positive. That there's no negative externalities to connecting the world.

And I think that that is, you know -- that's a naive look at this. And I think that we need to sort of change the way that we message about this technology, that it's just as much a force for -- for evil, potentially. As it is a force for good. And for, you know, the free circulation of information. So I think some of it just has to do with our mindset with this. This is -- you know, a new innovation is not good just by definition.

GLENN: Right.

CHARLIE: You have to earn that.

GLENN: Charlie, I had been concerned about this for a very long time. I was really glad to see your article and the fact that it was on Buzzfeed and people are reading it. And I'd love to stay in touch with you and have you on the program again, as we follow this story. Thank you very much, Charlie.

CHARLIE: Thanks for having me.

(music)

STU: Leave you with one last quote from Aviv Ovadya, the expert Charlie talked to: Alarmism can be good. You should be alarmist about this stuff. We are so screwed, it's beyond what most of us can imagine.

I mean, jeez. It's scary. Charlie Warzel tweeted from @worldofStu. But he's @CWarzel on Twitter. You can get his work on Buzzfeed. It's really interesting stuff. He dives into a lot of weird worlds. And it's really compelling.

We made it. It's Friday. This has been a tornado of a week. We endured the nonstop commotion of the migrant family separation policy and, best of all, we saw a near-immediate resolution, with President Trump's reversal of the policy. Whatever your stance on the policy, you have to admit, it's a good thing the chaos is over.

RELATED: Stop trying to be right and think of the children

Apparently, not everyone feels the same. Time magazine, for instance, has chosen to focus on the now-resolved matter for their July 2nd issue. They've released the cover. It features a cutout of the sobbing 2-year-old Honduran asylum-seeker — you've likely seen the image — captured by Getty photographer John Moore. Only, instead of featuring the original image, Time has chosen to photoshop an oversized image of President Trump, postured to appear like a bully standing over the crying girl. The background is solid read. The caption reads: "Welcome to America."

It's not enough to blame Trump for the whole debacle. We can't even have that conversation. No, the mainstream media feels the need to literally plaster him on the cover, to photoshop him into an awful situation, to make him look like a villain however they can. What good does that accomplish? And how long is the media going to demonize the President—what does he have to do?

The cover story is titled "A Reckoning After Trump's Border Separation Policy: What Kind of Country Are We?" Excellent question. What sort of country are we? Are we the sort of country that can pull it together and make this thing work despite our differences? Or are we the kind of country full of ungrateful people who throw tantrums even when everything goes their way?

President Trump reversed the policy, shouldn't that get some attention? Shouldn't he get some credit for affecting change in a way that his predecessor — contrary to what you'd surmise from the media — was unable to? No, instead, lately, we're the sort of country that shames and bullies our own leader even when he does the right thing.

We're the sort of country that shames and bullies our own leader even when he does the right thing.

Nietzsche noted that the severest punishment you can inflict on a person isn't to punish them after they've done something wrong or bad. In many ways, that sort of punishment can actually foster relief. The severest punishment is to punish someone when they've done something good, because you lessen the chance that they'll continue to do good.

And we need good.

I know at the heart of things, we're the kind of country that can come together for the good of mankind. We've proven that. But we need everybody.

The Left has been protesting and throwing tantrums since the day Trump was elected. They don't like him, we get it. At some point they need to change from diapers to undies so we can move forward.

Has anybody else noticed how politicized sports have gotten? The NFL is practically three berets away from a socialist revolution. They seem more concerned with dismantling social norms and protesting than with playing football. The Minnesota Vikings announced yesterday they will host a summit and fundraiser for LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

According to LifeSiteNews, the LGBTQ inclusion summit will "include speeches, interviews, and panel discussions with a variety of athletes, coaches, and activists who are homosexual or transgender" and "will be hosted at the team's recently-completed TCO Performance Center."

The summit marks the latest in the NFL's continued advocacy for LGBTQ rights and initiatives. Last year, the league launched NFL Pride, in a bid to "heighten sensitivity to the LGBTQ community" and reinforce "commitment to an inclusive environment in which all employees are welcome."

RELATED: New NFL policy will punish players who protest the national anthem

Fair enough. No one should be harassed or discriminated against in the workplace, but is that really what this is about? Because it kind of seems like there's more going on here. Kind of seems like there's a political, ideological slant to it. At the very least, it's virtue signaling.

The summit is "part of a settlement agreement the Vikings made after [former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe], who is straight, filed a lawsuit against the team in 2014 for allegedly creating a hostile work environment for homosexual and transgender people."

So, yeah, virtue signaling.

Ultimately, the NFL is a private business and, as we saw with the National Anthem kneelers, they can conduct their business however they like, and in turn the consumers can decide whether or not to keep giving them their money.

Mostly, the situation is just strange. Can you imagine how well this partnership would have gone over in the 1970s? Moreover, at what point does being LGBTQ come up during sports? How have we landed in this strange place, where politics and gender and race must be represented within every single interaction?

It's also worth mentioning that most people don't care if an athlete is gay — with the possible exception of transgender athletes, but that's another topic entirely. This tolerance has actually been confirmed by studies and surveys throughout all kinds of sports, in various countries throughout the world. Even countries with, shall we say, a far less tolerant view of the LGBTQ community than we have here in the USA — even people in those countries believe that it doesn't matter. People watch sports to see athleticism, to enjoy the unpredictable fury of sports at its finest.

People watch sports to see athleticism, to enjoy the unpredictable fury of sports at its finest.

Overwhelmingly, regardless of the sport, people do not care about the athletes' sexuality — in fact, most of us would rather not know. We don't watch golf to muse the social significance of gender norms and sexuality. We don't go to a baseball game to meditate on the evils of the patriarchy and the terrors of cultural appropriation. If an athlete is good, who cares what their orientation is? It's certainly not a new idea that LGBTQ can perform in sports. Typically, what sports fans care about is talent. Is the athlete good?

I guarantee that if Liberace rose from the dead tomorrow morning and was suddenly able to play basketball as well as 90s-era Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls fans would not complain if he joined the team. I think it's fair to say that most people like sports better when they aren't swamped with politics. Keep the politics elsewhere, especially these days, when it's nearly impossible to escape the increasingly intolerant politics of the Left.

Perhaps they could learn a lesson from our friends, the Ancient Greeks. It's no secret that the Ancient Greeks indulged in, well, LGBTQ activities. They were quite fond of the various activities. But they also built a civilization of tremendous importance to humanity as a whole. Philosophy, art and, yes, sports. When they were charged off to war, they didn't slap a Rainbow flag bumper sticker on the back of their chariot. Their sexuality did not define their identity. They were multifaceted human beings, able to go to war or to the theater or to the town hall as a citizen, because citizenry was what mattered, personhood and selfhood. More importantly, they lived in a time when people cared about self and tribe over sexuality and gender. Identity was selfhood, not sexuality.

At the end of the day, who cares if the Minnesota Vikings want to host an LGBTQ event? But they should expect to see an increase in shoulder-padded men traipsing across the stage on Broadway.

UPDATE: Here's how the discussion went on radio. Watch the video below.

Most people like sports better when politics aren't involved

Breaking down the announcement that the Minnesota Vikings will be hosting a summit and fundraiser for LGBTQ inclusion in sports.


Stop trying to be right and think of the children

Mario Tama/Getty Images

All the outrage this week has mainly focused on one thing: the evil Trump administration and its minions who delight in taking children from their illegal immigrant parents and throwing them all in dungeons. Separate dungeons, mind you.

That makes for a nice, easy storyline, but the reality is less convenient. Most Americans seem to agree that separating children from their parents — even if their parents entered the US illegally — is a bad thing. But what if that mom and dad you're trying to keep the kids with aren't really the kids' parents? Believe it or not, fraud happens.

RELATED: Where were Rachel Maddow's tears for immigrant children in 2014?

While there are plenty of heartbreaking stories of parents simply seeking a chance for a better life for their children in the US, there are also corrupt, abusive human traffickers who profit from the illegal immigration trade. And sorting all of this out is no easy task.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security said that since October 2017, more than 300 children have arrived at the border with adults claiming to be their parents who turned out not to be relatives. 90 of these fraud cases came from the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.

In 2017, DHS reported 46 causes of fraudulent family claims. But there have already been 191 fraud cases in 2018.

Shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

When Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pointed out this 315 percent increase, the New York Times was quick to give these family fraud cases "context" by noting they make up less than one percent of the total number of illegal immigrant families apprehended at the southern border. Their implication was that Nielsen was exaggerating the numbers. Even if the number of fraud cases at the border was only 0.001 percent, shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

This is the most infuriating part of this whole conversation this week (if you can call it a "conversation") — that both sides have an angle to defend. And while everyone's busy yelling and making their case, children are being abused.

What if we just tried, for two seconds, to love having mercy more than we love having to be right all the time?

Remember when cartoons were happy things? Each panel took you on a tiny journey, carrying you to an unexplored place. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes:

The comics creator asks us to join in a silent dance of the seen and the unseen. The visible and the invisible. This dance is unique to comics. No other artform gives so much to its audience while asking so much from them as well. This is why I think it's a mistake to see comics as a mere hybrid of the graphic arts and prose fiction. What happens between . . . panels is a kind of magic only comics can create.

When that magic is manipulated or politicized, it often devolves the artform into a baseless thing. Yesterday, Occupy Wall Street published the perfect example of low-brow deviation of the artform: A six-panel approach at satire, which imitates the instructions-panel found in the netted cubbyhole behind seats on airplanes. The cartoon is a critique of the recent news about immigrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border. It is a step-by-step guide to murdering US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

RELATED: Cultural appropriation has jumped the shark, and everyone is noticing

The first panel shows a man shoving an infant into a cage meant for Pomeranians. The following five panels feature instructions, and include pictures of a cartoonish murder.

The panels read as follows:

  1. If an ICE agent tries to take your child at the border, don't panic.
  2. Pull your child away as quickly as possibly by force.
  3. Gently tell your child to close his/her eyes and ears so they won't witness what you are about to do.
  4. Grab the ICE agent from behind and push your knife into his chest with an upward thrust, causing the agent's sternum to break.
  5. Reach into his chest and pull out his still beating heart.
  6. Hold his bloody heart out for all other agents to see, and tell them that the same fate awaits them if they f--- with your child again.

Violent comics are nothing new. But most of the time, they remain in the realms of invented worlds — in other words, not in our own, with reference to actual people, let alone federal agents.

The mainstream media made a game of crying racism with every cartoon depiction of Obama during his presidency, as well as during his tenure as Senator, when the New Yorker, of all things, faced scrutiny for depicting him in "Muslim clothing." Life was a minefield for political cartoonists during the Obama era.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

This year, we saw the leftist outrage regarding The Simpsons character Apu — a cartoon representation of a highly-respected, though cartoonishly-depicted, character on a cartoon show composed of cartoonishly-depicted characters.

We all remember Charlie Hebdo, which, like many outlets that have used cartoon satire to criticize Islam, faced the wrath and ire of people unable to see even the tamest representation of the prophet, Muhammad.

Interesting, isn't it? Occupy Wall Street publishes a cartoon that advocates murdering federal agents, and critics are told to lighten up. Meanwhile, the merest depiction of Muhammad has resulted in riots throughout the world, murder and terror on an unprecedented scale.

The intersection of Islam and comics is complex enough to have its own three-hour show, so we'll leave it at that, for now. Although, it is worth mentioning the commentary by satirical website The Onion, which featured a highly offensive cartoon of all the major religious figures except Muhammad. It noted:

Following the publication of the image above, in which the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity, no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened.

Of course, Occupy Wall Street is free to publish any cartoon they like. Freedom of speech, and so on—although there have been several instances in which violent cartoons were ruled to have violated the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" limitation of the First Amendment.

Posting it to Twitter is another issue — this is surely in violation of Twitter's violent content policy, but something tells me nothing will come of it. It's a funny world, isn't it? A screenshot of a receipt from Chick-fil-A causes outrage but a cartoon advocating murder gets crickets.

RELATED: Twitter mob goes ballistic over Father's Day photo of Caitlyn Jenner. Who cares?

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud concludes that, "Today the possibilities for comics are — as they've always been — endless. Comics offers . . . range and versatility, with all the potential imagery of film and painting plus the intimacy of the written word. And all that's needed is the desire to be heard, the will to learn, and the ability to see."

Smile, and keep moving forward.

Crude and awful as the Occupy Wall Street comic is, the best thing we can do is nod and look elsewhere for the art that will open our eyes. Let the lunatics draw what they want, let them stew in their own flawed double standards. Otherwise, we're as shallow and empty as they are, and nothing good comes of that. Smile, and keep moving forward.

Things are getting better. Show the world how to hear, how to learn, how to see.