The debate around policing false and misleading content on social media has been top of mind for politicians and policy-makers with the federal election fast approaching.
Last month, an altered video of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that had been slowed down to make her appear to slur her words became a lightning rod for the issue after it was shared across Facebook millions of times.
Facebook Canada executives were grilled on the video by a panel of politicians from 11 countries last month but refused to take it down.
Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada, said it’s not the platform’s job to determine the line between “free speech” and “censorship.”
“If lawmakers, in their wisdom, want to draw the line somewhere north or south of censorship, we would obviously oblige with local law,” Chan told the committee.
Now that manipulating photos and videos is easier than ever before, how is the average user supposed to navigate social media platforms, which have become battlegrounds for misinformation?
Here are some tips from experts when encountering content on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
Padraic Ryan, head of news intelligence at Storyful, said that when assessing content on social media, it’s important to look at the source’s digital footprint (trail of user data), the account’s history and any related social profiles or websites.
“Does that person have a history of posting reliable material or, for instance, does the person have a history of posting very obviously copied material or very obviously manipulated material?” Ryan said.
Storyful works with media companies — including Global News — to help verify breaking news and video around the world.
WATCH: Trudeau warns social media regulation could be used to repress citizens, stifle free speech
Ryan said the Pelosi video was an interesting case, as it was quite apparent it had been altered. He said people who want to avoid falling for false or misleading content should challenge their beliefs when confronted with this kind of material.
“It spread rapidly because it fitted with people’s agendas,” Ryan said. “People need to ask themselves: are they happy to knowingly spread false information simply because it serves the political end? And would they be happy if other people, who perhaps were their political opponents, were doing something similar?”
Ryan said the other two important questions when interrogating content online are where was the photo taken, and what was the date?
“Our approach would be to encourage people to truly question their own take on something and to question whether something that seems too good to be true,” he said.
An infamous example of this was an image posted to Instagram that alleged to show a child in Syria sleeping between his parents’ graves. It went viral, with people, including politicians, discussing it and even news agencies reporting on it.
A second photo released by the account revealed it was actually an art project, and the child was the photographer’s nephew.
Other things to think about are:
Facebook Canada has unveiled a searchable advertising database that will give users a detailed look at how political parties and interest groups are spending money on Facebook and Instagram ahead of the 2019 election.
Advertisers on Facebook will also have to confirm their identity and prove they are based in Canada. One of those steps involves Canada Post and “snail mail” to ensure that those who want to place political ads have a Canadian address.
The new measures are part of the company’s response to Bill C-76, the update to Canada’s federal election laws passed last December.
When U.S. President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey in 2017, a tweet alleged to be from Comey that said “the pee tape is real” quickly began trending across Twitter.
Except the tweet wasn’t real.
A screenshotted tweet of someone saying something scandalous or compelling can fool anyone, but there are steps you can take to make sure you are not had.
READ MORE: Beware reports based on screenshotted tweets
Look for the original tweet and ask yourself whether or not you trust the source.
When on Twitter, look for these hallmarks of a fake account:
Director Jordan Peele and BuzzFeed teamed up to make a PSA about the threat of the latest artificial intelligence being used to manipulate videos.
In the video, Peele ventriloquizes former U.S. president Barack Obama, who appears to discuss Black Panther and call Trump “a total and complete dips**t.”
The video was made using a combination of technology like Adobe After Effects and the AI face-swapping tool FakeApp.
While some researchers are working to develop tools to spot so-called deepfake videos, there are some steps everyone can take to become more media savvy.
Questions to ask yourself when seeing a provocative video are:
Since the 2016 U.S. election, websites masquerading as legitimate news sites have been widely debated, criticized and read.
The issue popped up again recently when a website called CBTV published a fake story claiming Trudeau “pleaded with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, to allow one million Nigerians enter Canada under a new Employment and Migration Programme [sic] designed for immigrants.”
The story, complete with fake quotes from Trudeau, was shared across Reddit and Facebook. Although the story was quickly discredited by the High Commission in Abuja, it renewed the debate about combating fake news.
If you want to avoid these types of sites, here are some tips:
—With files from Patrick Cain
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.