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Out-of-context photos are a powerful low-tech form of misinformation

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When you think of visual misinformation, maybe you think of deepfakes – videos that appear real but have actually been created using powerful video editing algorithms. The creators edit celebrities into pornographic movies, and they can put words into the mouths of people who never said them. But the majority of visual misinformation that people are exposed to involves much simpler forms of deception. One common technique involves recycling legitimate old photographs and videos and presenting them as evidence of recent events.For example, Turning Point USA, a conservative group with over 1.5 million followers on Facebook, posted a photo of a ransacked grocery store with the caption “YUP! SocialismSucks.” In reality, the empty supermarket shelves have nothing to do with socialism; the photo was taken in Japan after a major earthquake in 2011.In another instance, after a global warming protest in London’s Hyde Park in 2019, photos began circulating as proof that the protesters had left the area covered in trash. In reality, some of the photos were from Mumbai, India, and others came from a completely different event in the park.I’m a cognitive psychologist who studies how people learn correct and incorrect information from the world around them. Psychological research demonstrates that these out-of-context photographs can be a particularly potent form of misinformation. And unlike deepfakes, they are incredibly simple to create. Out of context and incorrectOut-of-context photos are very common source of misinformation.In the day after the January Iranian attack on U.S. military bases in Iraq, reporter Jane Lytvynenko at Buzzfeed documented numerous instances of old photos or videos being presented as evidence of the attack on social media. These included photos from a 2017 military strike by Iran in Syria, video of Russian training exercises from 2014 and even footage from a video game. In fact, out of the 22 false rumors documented in the article, 12 involve this kind of out-of-context photos or video.This form of misinformation can be particularly dangerous because images are a powerful tool for swaying popular opinion and promoting false beliefs. Psychological research has shown that people are more likely to believe true and false trivia statements, such as “turtles are deaf,” when they’re presented alongside an image. In addition, people are more likely to claim they’ve previously seen freshly made-up headlines when they’re accompanied by a photograph. Photos also increase the numbers of likes and shares that a post receives in a simulated social media environment, along with people’s beliefs that the post is true. And pictures can alter what people remember from the news. In an experiment, one group of people read a news article about a hurricane accompanied by a photograph of a village after the storm. They were more likely to falsely remember that there were deaths and serious injuries compared to people who instead saw a photo of the village before the hurricane strike. This suggests that the false pictures of the Jan. 2020 Iranian attack may have affected people’s memory for details of the event. Why they’re effectiveThere are a number of reasons photographs likely increase your belief in statements.First, you’re used to photographs being used for photojournalism and serving as proof that an event happened.Second, seeing a photograph can help you more quickly retrieve related information from memory. People tend to use this ease of retrieval as a signal that information is true.Photographs also make it more easy to imagine an event happening, which can make it feel more true. Finally, pictures simply capture your attention. A 2015 study by Adobe found that posts that included images received more than three times the Facebook interactions than posts with just text. Adding info so you know what you’re seeingJournalists, researchers and technologists have begun working on this problem.Recently, the News Provenance Project, a collaboration between The New York Times and IBM, released a proof-of-concept strategy for how images could be labeled to include more information about their age, location where taken and original publisher. This simple check could help prevent old images from being used to support false information about recent events.In addition, social media companies such as Facebook, Reddit and Twitter could begin to label photographs with information about when they were first published on the platform.Until these kinds of solutions are implemented, though, readers are left on their own. One of the best techniques to protect yourself from misinformation, especially during a breaking news event, is to use a reverse image search. From the Google Chrome browser, it’s as simple as right-clicking on a photograph and choosing “Search Google for image.” You’ll then see a list of all the other places that photograph has appeared online. As consumers and users of social media, we have a responsibility for ensuring that information we share is accurate and informative. By keeping an eye out for out-of-context photographs, you can help keep misinformation in check.[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * Why you stink at fact-checking * Malicious bots and trolls spread vaccine misinformation – now social media companies are fighting backLisa Fazio has received funding from Facebook and the Knight Foundation for her research on misinformation.



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Dalai Lama: We Must Act As One to Preserve Our World

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This planet is our only home. Environmental experts say that over the next few decades, global warming will reach such a level that many water resources will go dry. So ecology and combatting global warming are very important.

For example, my country, Tibet, is the ultimate source of water in Asia. Rivers including Pakistan’s Indus, India’s Ganges and Brahmaputra, China’s Yellow River, as well as the Mekong, flow from Tibet’s plateau. So we should pay more attention to the preservation of Tibetan ecology. This is not only for the interest of 6 million Tibetans but all people in this region. In the past, when I was flying over Afghanistan, there were clear signs that what used to be lakes and streams were already dry. I feel that Tibet also may become like that soon. Regarding Tibet’s political matters, I have already retired. But regarding Tibet’s ecology and very rich culture, I’m fully committed.

We human beings have these marvelous, brilliant minds. But we are also the biggest troublemakers on the planet. Now we should utilize our brains with compassion, and a sense of concern. This is why one of my commitments is promotion of deeper human values.

From birth, we rely on others, particularly our mothers. From then, each individual’s existence entirely depends on a community, because we are a social animal. Community is the source of our happiness, so we must take care of the community. So now, in modern times, the concept of humanity is one community. East, west, north, south: everyone is interdependent. The modern economy has no national bound­aries. Therefore, now we need a sense of oneness of all 7 billion human beings. In the past, many problems were created because of too much emphasis on our differences, such as nationalities and religions. Now, in modern times, that thinking is out of date. We should think about humanity, about the whole world.

We must listen to scientists and specialists. Their voices and knowledge are very important. And religious people should pay more attention to scientists rather than just pray, pray, pray. In the ancient Nalanda Buddhist tradition, which we Tibetans follow, everything is investigated and not accepted by faith alone. If through reasoning we find some contradiction, even in Buddha’s own words, then we have the right to reject them. From childhood, I was always engaged in a lot of debate. Our thinking was based not in faith but reasoning.

Buddha himself was not born in a palace but under a tree. He attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree. When he passed, it was under a tree. One of the rules during our monsoon retreat is that we should not cut down anything green. So this shows that Buddha himself paid attention to green issues.

Hours, minutes and seconds: time never stands still. We also are part of that nature. The past is important, but already past. The future is still in our hands, so we must think about ecology at the global level.

This essay is adapted from his recent TIME 100 Talk





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Downing Street advertises for £135k data science 'skunkworks' chief in latest Cummings shake-up

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Downing Street has placed an advert for £135,000 job to head up "skunkworks" in Number 10, in what appears the latest in Dominic Cummings' shakeup of Whitehall. The new job will be responsible for a new data science unit in Number 10, aimed to “transform” decision-making in government. A skunkworks is a term originating in America during WWII for a project developed by a small and loosely structured group focusing on radical innovation. The civil service advert says the role will involve leading a new "analytical unit known as ‘10ds" – which stands for "10 Data Science". It says: "The vision of 10ds is a skunkworks type organisation that builds innovative software to allow the PM to make data driven decisions and thereby transform government". Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief aide, is known for his disdain for traditional civil servants. He has said his focus after Brexit will be the establishment of a British version of the US’s Advanced Projects Research Agency (Arpa). He recently instructed government advisers to read a book on Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock, as well as High Output Management by Andrew Grove. While the salary for the new role is advertised as up to £135,000, "outstanding" candidates could get more. The advert says the “newly created role will be responsible for establishing No10's quantitative ability” as well as advising the Prime Minister. It says the job presents an opportunity to work "at the heart' of government. Applications close on July 27. Earlier this year Mr Cummings placed an advert for “data scientists, project managers, policy experts and assorted weirdos” to apply for Downing Street jobs. Mr Cummings used his personal blog to invite applications from “true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole”. In a much-publicised post, he said: “If you want to figure out what characters around Putin might do, or how international criminal gangs might exploit holes in our border security, you don’t want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news.” Shortly after the blog advert was posted, a new Downing Street adviser Andrew Sabisky quit following reports of his controversial comments on pregnancies, eugenics and race.



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Philippines Lawmakers Vote to Shut Down Country’s Largest TV Network After Attacks From President Duterte

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(MANILA, Philippines) — Philippine lawmakers voted Friday to reject the license renewal of the country’s largest TV network, shutting down a major news provider that had been repeatedly threatened by the president over its critical coverage.

The House of Representatives committee on franchises, dominated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s political allies, voted 70-11 to reject a new 25-year franchise for ABS-CBN Corp. The National Telecommunications Commission had ordered the broadcaster to shut down in May after its old franchise expired. It halted broadcasting then, but the vote takes it off the air permanently.

Duterte and his allies had raised questions about the network’s compliance with the law and the terms of its franchise.

International media watchdogs condemned the closure of ABS-CBN, which was founded in 1953, as a major blow to press freedom.

Human Rights Watch said the lawmakers’ vote was “a grievous assault on press freedom in the country” and the greatest blow to media freedom caused by any government act since then dictator Ferdinand Marcos shut the broadcasting giant and other media outlets after declaring martial law in 1972.

“This move solidifies the tyranny of President Rodrigo Duterte, who accused ABS CBN of slights against him and politically targeted it for refusing to toe the government’s line and criticizing his so-called `war on drugs,’” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of the U.S.-based rights group.

Reflecting the extent of unease over the network’s shutdown, both the opposition and several key Duterte allies questioned efforts to close it. Concerns have also been raised by a diverse range of groups, including top business executives, left-wing activists and Catholic church officials.

ABS-CBN has more than 11,000 news and production personnel nationwide. Aside from reporting on the coronavirus, which has infected more than 50,000 people and killed 1,314 in the Philippines, it has provided food and medical aid to more than 2 million people, company officials said.

The network was last shuttered under the rule of Marcos and reopened after his 1986 ouster by an army-backed “people power” revolt.

Media watchdogs accuse Duterte and his government of muzzling independent media such as ABS-CBN that have reported critically on issues including his anti-drug crackdown, which has left thousands of mostly poor drug suspects dead. Duterte has accused the network of not airing his paid campaign ad and favoring a rival candidate in the 2016 election, allegations the company denied.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque says Duterte took a neutral position on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal and left it to Congress to decide.

But ahead of the franchise expiration, the government’s solicitor-general, Jose Calida, asked the Supreme Court in February to revoke the franchises of ABS-CBN and a subsidiary in a separate attempt to shut the company for allegedly abusing its franchises and violating a constitutional prohibition on foreign investment in Philippine media. ABS-CBN denied the allegations.





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