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The Most Important Digital Competence Is To Distinguish Between Truth and Fake

Last year, a deeply disturbing video rolled across TikTok. It had the BBC logo and graphics on it and looked like the other professional videos the BBC produces for the social media. But this video, which claimed Poland was invading Ukraine, was false from start to finish, and the BBC had to stop it, according to Judy Parnall, Head of Standards and Industries at the BBC.

In war, truth is the first casualty, it is said. But the truth can also becomes a victim on the internet with artificially intelligent tools. The tools make it so much easier to mass-produce lies and propaganda and make it look like facts. In fact, today you can fake live broadcasting, while it’s happening. And with so-called deep fakes, you can put someone’s face on someone else’s body and make them say and do exactly what you want. In the wrong hands, these technologies are dangerous weapons against the truth – and thus also the trust in society and, not least, peace.

90% of all content on the internet will be generated by artificial intelligence by 2026, estimates Europol in a report from last year. And that’s even before the US company OpenAI, with Microsoft as a major investor, made the much-publicised artificially intelligent chatbot, ChatGPT, available to everyone. It can create content in a way that makes it seem real. For example, a friend had ChatGPT wrote a fake article about me as if I were accused of corruption. Very scary.

Good Ways of Using ChatGPT
Artificially intelligent tools can be used in many good ways. For research and translations, for writing catchy headlines or code and getting complex topics explained. All assuming that we humans fact-check what comes out, as there are many lies on the web that the tools have copies and thus pass on. At the same time, ChatGPT also invents lies completely unsolicited, nor does it show us the sources it uses.

So be prepared; propaganda and lies will flood the web and challenge us humans to distinguish truth from falsehood. As if that wasn’t hard enough already.

There are plenty of attempts to combat misinformation:

There are fact-checkers paid for by states and big tech that flag what’s untrue and thus enable social media to still make money from it. But fact-checking is a measure, which will never succeed, and since there are so many lies, the effort has very short reach.

The BBC and Microsoft are working together to create a watermark that tracks the originality of content , while Southern Denmark University, SDU has a Digital Democracy Center, who is trying to develop a tag to show users who is behind a piece of content.

“If you know how it is made, you can trust what it say.”

The BBC News

More education
But more is needed, and publicist media could help equip us all, young and old, in the discipline of source criticism. Denmark is at the top of the world rankings for media literacy. But we could take inspiration from Finland, which makes an effort to teach people to spot propaganda. Adults can get it in libraries and in schools, it is a common thread through many subjects, according to The New York Times , which recently reported from there.

Finnish children are learning about the difference between social media and publicist media. That they should always ask themselves what the purpose of any content is, how and when it was created, and what the main messages are. Just because it is communicated well, is not necessarily true. They also learn how to edit their own videos so they can see how easy it is to cheat. They investigate what Russian state media says about the war, and they discuss whether Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin was also under the influence of drugs when she danced on a TikTok video. She wasn’t, but several children thought she was.

There is also this kind of education in other Nordic countries, but much more is needed. The publicist media, which must be considered some of the best at identifying lies, should make their expertise available to the public in the form of hotlines, courses, and dissemination.

Illustration: Prompt: ‘truth’ ‘fake’ use both words spelled out fully with lots of colors as background’ – Dall-E