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Humans haven’t been replaced by machines yet in at least one area: spotting news hoaxes.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.

The great beyond. What does it hide from us? Do unknown lifeforms linger in the dark? In other words, was David Bowie right? Is there life on Mars? The head of Harvard University's Astronomy Department contends that, yes, there is. Well, not that there's life on Mars. I'll explain in just a minute.

In an academic article for the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Dr. Avi Loeb, the head of Harvard University's Astronomy Department, claimed that an alien probe entered our solar system. He claimed that it is masked as the space rock Oumuamua (Ow-moo-ah-moo-ah), "the first interstellar object to enter our solar system." It turns out that "space rock" is way more than a musical genre.

RELATED: Science saves us again: Octopuses are really aliens who crash-landed on Earth

In his own words:

Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that 'Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment.

His evidence? pointed to the space rock's abnormal acceleration, activity which he gathered via the Hubble Space Telescope.

He added that "the lightsail technology might be abundantly used for transportation of cargo between planets."

Sounds a bit like Star Wars, no? Or are you more of a Star Trek fan? Either way, it's an odd thing to hear from the head of Harvard University's Astronomy Department. Typically, we hear these sorts of things from the darker corners of the History Channel.

Well, I'll say that, at this point, I'm not really surprised. It's 2019. I'm not surprised by anything anymore.

"I don't care what people say," Loeb said. "It doesn't matter to me. I say what I think, and if the broad public takes an interest in what I say, that's a welcome result as far as I'm concerned, but an indirect result. Science isn't like politics: It is not based on popularity polls."

Honestly, I believe the guy. Well, I'll say that, at this point, I'm not really surprised. It's 2019. I'm not surprised by anything anymore. Heck, I welcome alien lifeforms. Maybe they can give us some advice on how to get our world together.

The third annual Women's March is approaching, and the movement has shown signs of strife. It's imploding, really. An article in Tablet Magazine revealed deep-seated antisemitism among the co-chairs of the movement, which is funny for a movement that brands itself as a haven of "intersectionality." The examples pile up, and just yesterday there was another. I'll tell you about it in a minute.

The Women's March has been imploding, and it started at the very top. Four women have come to represent the diverse face of the movement, the co-chairs: Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour, and Bob Bland.

RELATED: LEFTIST INSANITY: Woman attacked at women's rights rally for exercising her rights

Increasingly, we've learned that anti-Semitism is common among these women.

Teresa Shook, who founded the Women's March has repeatedly asked them to step down: The co-chairs "have steered the Movement away from its true course. I have waited, hoping they would right the ship," Shook wrote. "But they have not. In opposition to our Unity Principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs."

Tamika Mallory gave us the latest example, by continuing to stand by Louis Farrakhan. Check out Tamika's arrogant, nonsensical response. But the real problem came at the end of Mallory's rambling non-answer.



Women's March Leader Tamika Mallory Doubles Down On Love For Louis Farrakhan youtu.be


Later this week I'll go over the entire controversy on Glenn TV. It's harrowing, really. For now, I'll leave you with this. Critics of 4th wave feminism have argued that the radical identity politics of the left will lead to the exact kind of mistreatment that feminists claim to be against. That argument has been written off as using the slippery slope fallacy. But, as we see with the Women's March, it is in fact a brutal reality.

Remember how serious Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were last week, when they gave their "rebuttal" to President Trump's address? They made it seem like this government shutdown is apocalyptic. A lot of Democrats have done the same. On social media and CNN at least. Thirty Democrats, however, took a different route. Puerto Rico. For cocktails at the beach.

RELATED: The President won the night, but don't count on the media to admit it

A group of 30 Democrats have turned the government shutdown into a live-action interpretation of a Jimmy Buffet song:

Nibblin' on sponge cake, Watchin' the sun bake.

No, seriously. In the words of Press Secretary Sarah Sanders:

Democrats in Congress are so alarmed about federal workers not getting paid they're partying on the beach instead of negotiating a compromise to reopen the government and secure the border.

A photo of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez at a resort beach has gone viral.

They arrived via chartered jet. They're staying at a seaside resort, and attended the ridiculously-priced and overhyped play "Hamilton," where tickets for opening night "ranged from $10 to $5,000," according to the Associated Press. They even attended several afterparties.

Of course, the official occasion seems legit. They're in San Juan for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC. According to a memo for the gathering:

This year's winter retreat promises to be our most widely attended yet with over 220 guests, including 39 Members of Congress and CHC BOLD PAC supporters expected to attend and participate!

Also in attendance, about 109 lobbyists, from a number of places, including "R.J. Reynolds, Facebook, Comcast, Amazon, PhRMA, Microsoft, Intel, Verizon, and unions like the National Education Association."

Donald Jr. said it well:

And of course no one says anything. I'm not even in government and I'd get killed in the press if I was on vacation right now. Why won't they cover their democrat buddies lobbyist sponsored vacation in the islands???

Maduro takes office and Venezuelans vote with their feet

CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images

Venezuela continues to collapse. A country that used to have the world's largest oil reserves is now in rags. Its money is worthless, with inflation near one million percent. People must work an average of five days at minimum wage just to afford a dozen eggs. But there is one person still pumped about Venezuela's future – its noble president, Nicolas Maduro! I'll tell you why he's still enthusiastic in just a minute…

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro had a stellar 2018. Here are some highlights:

  • Running water and electricity only work occasionally and prices for basic goods doubled.
  • Doctors, engineers, oil workers, and electricians fled the country en masse. Over 48,000 teachers also left the country.
  • Over half a million Venezuelans fled to Peru alone.

Maduro created a new digital currency called the "petro." One petro is supposed to equal the price of a barrel of oil, about $60. U.S. Treasury Department officials call the petro a scam. Who could've seen that coming?

Maduro also announced a 3,000 percent minimum-wage hike. Even Ocasio-Cortez might roll her eyes at that one. Or find it inspiring.

And just yesterday, a Human Rights Watch report detailed how Venezuelan intelligence and security forces are arresting and torturing military personnel and their family members who are accused of plotting against Maduro. The torture includes: "brutal beatings, asphyxiation, cutting soles of their feet with a razor blade, electric shocks, food deprivation, [and] forbidding them to go to the bathroom."

It's so bad in Venezuela that even The Washington Post admits Venezuela's problems are mostly due to "failed socialist policies." But President Nicolas Maduro gave a televised New Year's address calling 2019, "the year of new beginnings." He's pumped, you see, because today he will be sworn in for his second six-year term as president. He was "re-elected" last May in an election that the international community declared illegitimate.

Thirteen nations released a statement last week urging Maduro not to take office and saying they would not recognize his presidency.

Maduro doesn't have many friends left at home or abroad. Thirteen nations released a statement last week urging Maduro not to take office and saying they would not recognize his presidency. This week, the U.S. added more Venezuelan officials to its sanctions list.

In a press conference yesterday, Maduro said:

There's a coup against me, led by Washington. I tell our civilians and our military to be ready. Our people will respond.

I think the people of Venezuela who have the means are already responding – by leaving.