Technology and Regulatory Perspectives
on FAKE NEWS, MISINFORMATION, BELIEF SYSTEM & TRUTH
Text of a speech at the
2021 October Seminar and Webinar to celebrate Nigeria’s 61st National Day Anniversary
jointly sponsored by the Association of Nigerians in Lethbridge, the Ethnic Association of
Southern Alberta, and the Soboyejo – TurningPoint Charity Foundation, in Canada
October 16, 2021.
INTRO & DEFINITION
Fake news means misinformation.
The Americans called it FAKE NEWS and President Trump spent much of his energy fighting it. The truth is that Mr. Donald Trump kept busy fighting media companies and not the subject matter. In Europe, they chose MISINFORMATION. Both of them mean “All forms of false, inaccurate, or misleading information designed, presented and promoted to intentionally cause public harm or for profit”.
The aspect of fake news which I want to discuss is the news that is tampered with to give another meaning or impression. Because it is usually done with a motive, it generally offends somebody somewhere. Yes, that makes it bad, and it must be discouraged.
However, my view is that social media companies already have very good ways, may be inadequate yet, may be some still substandard, to confront the evil effects of fake news. We already know that those who run failing governments all over the world are increasingly getting uncomfortable with the negative use of information especially as it relates to the passing of judgment on the quality of governance. In their own case, it does not have to be fake news to hurt them. It only needs to paint their performance in bad light. They then use fake news charges to vent their anger.
In one particular country the same social media which a reigning regime used in garnering votes to come into office is, six years down the road, now being considered either as enemy of those in power or enemy of the head of government. But truth really is that at the core of the ruling party’s problem is their inability to use goodwill to advantage.
Having said that much by way of introduction of my understanding of the subject matter, my intention here is to limit my discussion to Technology and Regulatory aspects of a discussion that is potentially very wide and technically difficult to pass judgment on.
What technology does is ultimately to help us do things faster, bigger, neater, and cheaper. Something tells me that a deeper knowledge in emerging technologies of Artificial Intelligence, AI, and machine language (learning), ML will help this discussion, but I do not have even very low-level information let alone substantial knowledge about these stuffs. However, if you ask me, I may tell you, not authoritatively though, that it may not be that fake news are emerging more viciously than they have always been. The issue may be the advanced speed at which they can now spread and the relative cheaper access to means of sharing individual thoughts and expressions constitute the real issues that make fake news the monster we have accepted it to be.
TECHNOLOGY and REGULATION
I choose to discuss both technology and regulation pari pasu. I mean together. That is because while i see a lot to discuss in using technology to confront the widespread of fake news very little relatively is available to advance on regulation. Unfortunately, instead of opting for technology, government officials usually opt for legislation and they continue to miss the point. I will be surprised if those who know law tell us that there are no enough in current legislation to deal will purveyors of misinformation (or fake news) once they have been identified
I want to advise those who are in authority that they should rely more on technology to help them out rather than bothering their head in pushing legislation to find solutions. I say this because technology moves and works faster than legislation in its process to apply solutions especially in this subject.
DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGY AS SOLUTION
I remember, for a long time, that online platform managers used to identify and blacklist words to assert decorum in published content. I once wrote “my pen is the Blackburn model” when I meant to write “my pen is the Blackburn model” and my paper was “flagged” because the word “penis” was listed as offending.
I can say straightaway that the issues that I will identify and for which I expect to find solutions using technology will include
a. Getting all of us to wage a war against fake news by making sure we stop sharing one once it is identified.
b. Substandard platform regulation,
c. Unreasonable trust in fellow platform users,
d. Increasing poverty in the land and
e. Associated unrest of the mind resulting in citizens wanting to join in pulling government down.
I suggest that Technology must be relied on more than legislation and used to support the awareness of readers that what they read could be misleading if not out rightly falsehood. Therefore, the idea will be to find intelligence-supported ways of categorizing and flagging trending materials to enable the reader to get conscious of what could be in stock. The correctness of this method is an issue in which artificial intelligence science will be required.
I have it on good authority that AI is already advanced enough to trace the source of offending content, and this can be used to create accurate alert and flagging idea for material that pass through social media company platforms. That to me defines what we mean by the primary core of a technological solution.
Let me warn that AI as enabling science to combat fake news is really what in my native Yoruba language we call “Epe la fi nwo Epe”. That is because AI itself is the science that will hugely make creation of fake action very possible. And yet it is also the science that will enable us arrest and stop fake news before it spreads. Of course we can also see it as “ole lo mo ese ole to lori apata”. In other words, ‘a robber may be best to beat and catch the thief on their common ground’. That means there is nothing strange in this challenging situation than for us to be vigilant and take caution.
EXISTING TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS
My understanding is that as we speak, Natural Language Processing (NLP) is one current technology that is being used to identify fake news after it has been created by looking at the nature and tone of the content. My idea here is not to research into how many of such solutions already exist but to say they do exist.
The other point to make is that technology as solution is actually a case of human-computer symbiosis, in which we use computing power to detect and eliminate sources of misinformation, and then rely on well-informed people to spread the word, blacklist and ignore or punish the worst purveyors of falsehoods.
I am asking that we elevate the thinking capacity of our people. Let us guide them to question every information and avoid reusing an information if it is not found positive to development. When we use technology to help us in doing this, it is what I call TECHNOLOGY AS SOLUTION, far beyond legislation.
WHO PROVIDES WHAT IS TO BE FLAGGED?
Having said technology be used to identify fake news content, my view is that an authority must exist to serve as clearing house for what constitutes fake news at country level while the United Nations eventually provides a treaty to which all nations should be free to sign into.
Fake News/Misinformation is REAL, an enemy of society and it should be confronted
Let us encourage citizen to confront fake news, use technology to detect and use legislation to punish offenders
Caution is advised in dealing on the matter since technology the preferred solution could also be a tool for spreading it.
October 16, 2021.
Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu
+234 802 322 4572.
Technology and Regulatory Perspectives on FAKE NEWS, MISINFORMATION, BELIEF SYSTEM & TRUTH (PRESENTATION)