Evaluating Information: Fake news, fake tech

Use What Where or Not at All

Fake news technology trends

With the emergence of fake news, it can be difficult to discern fact from fiction. In an era when fake news travels faster than the truth, it is important to discern the ways that information, be it audio or visual, can be misunderstood.

The Princeton University computer scientists have developed audio editing technology that edits voices like text. The software, named VoCo, can easily add or replace a word in a human voice recording by editing the transcript of the recording. However, the new software is raising some ethical and security concerns due to the possibility of altering an audio recording by including words and phrases that the original speaker never said.

The future of fake news might not only require us to question everything we read, but also everything we see and hear. Do you always believe everything you see, read or hear?  To illustrate how deceptively convincing fake news stories could look and feel, provided below are examples of some realistic looking news footage.

VoCo:Text-based insertion and replacement in an audio narration: A system called VoCo allows people to replace and insert new words in the recorded audio narration. Could voice and facial manipulation soon be used for creating fake news?

Technology facilitates ‘fake news’

A new kind of video manipulation tool made possible by the advances in artificial intelligence and computer graphics could allow for the fabrication of lifelike footage of public figures appearing to say anything.

Fake Obama created using AI video tool - BBC News The video shows ‘doctored’ footage of former US President Barack Obama created using Artificial Intelligence (AI) appearing to 'lip sync' saying something he has actually not said.


Face2Face: Real-time face capture and reenactment of RGB videos: The video shows the real-time facial re-enactment whereby the source actor is captured with a standard webcam, thus driving the animation of the face and video shown on the monitor to the left.

As with evaluating information for research, when looking at a news story and determining its veracity, it is still helpful to use the criteria for evaluating information sources, and ask yourself questions about:
          Authority – Who is reporting the news story? If the source is known to be questionable, it is best to be avoided entirely.
          Accuracy – Does the story seem incredulous? What evidence is included to support the author’s claim? Investigate further, and examine other reputable news sites to check for the news truth and accuracy. 
          Currency – When was the news story last updated, and how often has it been updated?
          Relevancy – How useful the featured news really is? If the story appears overly amusing or fascinating, it might be merely satire, and thus irrelevant.

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Real or fake tech stories?

While technology’s role in the peddling of fake news is widely publicised and documented, there is also an emergence of fake technology and ‘fake tech’ stories. A ‘fake tech’ is a term that indicates a non-existing technology that either does not deliver what it promises or is completely fabricated. Presented below are two 'tech' stories that appeared in the news media recently. Read the stories and determine for yourself if these two 'technologies' could be deemed as 'fake'.

Magic Leap Virtual Reality

Magic Leap, a startup company based in South Florida has promised breakthrough augmented reality (AR) technology and the way people experience reality. The company, founded in 2011, has raised $1.4 billion from investors for its augmented reality smartglasses. However, back in 2017, six years after the company initially promised the glasses, the Magic Leap was still offering just the 'teasers' of their work - the allegedly revolutionary augmented reality technology was still regarded years away from completion. What is more, the video presentations that were created to demonstrate the AR technology were created using special effects. Would you consider Magic Leap's technology as real or fake, or even perhaps "work in progress' and something that has a potential of growing into a quality mixed reality product when it finally reaches the market?

Underwater Breathing Apparatus

The futuristic device shown below appeared in many Facebook feeds a couple of years ago, and was described as a new type of underwater breathing apparatus that could extract oxygen directly from seawater. Some news media articles reported that the apparatus would revolutionise recreational and professional diving. But how real is this 'inventive' technology? Watch the provided video, read the media articles, and determine for yourself.

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