Why do people believe even obvious fakes

Why do people believe even obvious fakes

Original material – by Christie Sisson.

Many people, including Congress, are concerned that fake videos and images distort the truth by showing people saying things they didn't actually say or do.

I am part of a major US government project to develop ways to detect fake images and videos. However, my team's job is to play the bad guy. We develop sophisticated and persuasive counterfeiting techniques to enable other researchers to test their detection methods (like videos).

For the past three years, we've had fun coming up with new ways to modify images and videos. We ourselves created several scenarios, in addition, we drew inspiration from the actions of real bad guys trying to influence public opinion.

I am proud of the work we have done and hope that it will help people see the truth in a world flooded with media. But we found that the key element in the struggle between truth and propaganda has nothing to do with technology. This is because people are much more likely to accept something if it aligns with their beliefs.


When we create our fakes, we start by collecting original, undocumented images and videos. They not only provide us with the raw material for manipulating images, but also include the data stored in the original files, a kind of technical fingerprint, a description of how and when, and with what tools it was obtained.

This information helps us create fakes that look as close as possible to the real materials, both visually and in digital signature. This is an ever-changing challenge as new cameras enter the market and researchers develop new methods for digital analysis.

What we create is then sent to other research partners to see if they can share what we did and how we did it. Their job is not only to determine if the material is genuine or counterfeit, but also, if possible, to explain how the counterfeit was made. Then we compare the results with what we did, and thus learn together; we learn to make the best counterfeits, and they learn to spot them.


Considering that my team and I were the most methodical and technical in our actions, I could not help but pay attention to the terrible quality of fake images and videos that were spreading on the Internet and in the media. We prided ourselves on the fact that our work was as compelling as possible, but what we saw on the web (like the fuzzy images and slow-motion audio in videos with Nancy Pelosi) were completely below our quality standards.

As someone with experience in image processing, I was shocked that people believed in images and videos that I can easily identify as altered.

In an effort to understand what was happening, I did not use the most scientific and reliable method – I conducted a survey in my family and among friends. As ridiculous as it may sound, I discovered what sociologists and social psychologists have shown in more scientific research: if an image or manipulation matches what people themselves think is right, they do not hesitate to believe it.

Fake photos have been circulated in which an NFL player burns the US flag in a locker room, a student in a park tearing up the Constitution, a shark swimming on a highway, and many others. In terms of quality, these are terrible examples. But they turned out to be a sensation and often had a certain political color. This helped them gain immense popularity on social media – and as a result, news coverage.


Maybe there is another reason why people believe in what they see on the internet. I asked my teenage son why people believe in these terrible quality forgeries while I was trying to find the best examples of them? His answer was very simple: “You can't believe anything on the Internet. Of course, I would not think these videos are real because nothing is real. '

I was surprised by his response and suppressed my remark about cynicism when I realized that he grew up digesting images at a speed unparalleled in human history. Skepticism is not only helpful for this level of understanding, but it is also the key to surviving and navigating modern media.

For my generation and generations before, especially for those of us who saw the transition from cinema to digital photography, the image's credibility was shaken. For my son and subsequent generations raised on the media, trust never seemed to exist.

When people talk about fake imagery, they often overlook the basic concepts of media literacy. Fear and panic grows when people imagine watching fake videos of someone saying or doing something that never really happened. This fear is based on the long-standing principle that seeing is believing. But it looks like this old axiom can no longer be true, given how easily people believe false images. In fact, some studies show that fake news can be picked up and hyped by people who are inclined to believe sensational claims while being overconfident in their knowledge.


I believe that the work of my group and our researchers will help detect technologically advanced counterfeits. But a belief grows in me, based both on the experience of my son and the experience of the students with whom I work, that today's young people and future generations are able to consume content more easily and respond more easily to images and videos.

The skepticism they grew up with is a much more complex type of media literacy than what many of us are used to, and may even portend a cultural shift away from seeing images or videos as 'evidence'. They only believe images and videos if they get proof of their reality, not the other way around.

While researchers are improving in detecting counterfeits, and adults are trying to catch up with what children already know, it is better to remain skeptical. Before you react, find out where the image came from and in what context. When you see someone sharing an awesome or sensational or world-changing image or video on social media, take a break before sharing it yourself. Search for the original image to determine where else this image appeared. You may even stumble upon a credible source claiming that it is in fact a fake.

Original material – by Christie Sisson.

The problem of trusting information on the Internet is not new, and it has been discussed for several years. However, with the development of technologies that make it possible to create plausible fake videos and images, this problem received a new impetus, becoming so urgent that it was seriously discussed at the state level.

The trouble is that there is only one step from entertainment to influencing the surrounding reality, and someone has already taken it. And there will be a lot of these steps, the only question is where they will lead us. And will it not turn out that people will stop believing in general everything that is happening around, and not just on the network. However, it will be much worse if people believe all this, especially the older generation.

The main thing is that the new version of reality does not lead to problems that cannot be resolved peacefully before we develop immunity to disinformation on the Internet.

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