Hundreds of new items are found on the net every day, many of which are unreliable or perhaps not completely correct.  So-called fake news is spreading fast and is becoming a problem for readers and for the credibility of social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), which are not easily able to counteract it, despite increasing efforts in this direction. There are now real hubs on the web that produce fake news that is spread on accounts and pages with millions of followers and likes. The headline is usually very catchy, which makes the news attractive and difficult to verify for uninformed users. Thus, thanks also to our ‘superficial’ sharing, fake news goes viral.

The problem of fake news is nothing new, but the issue has recently become more complex if the creator of the fake news is an Artificial Intelligence, capable of creating even credible video content of famous people talking about issues designed to misinform or defame. 

The issue, however, is not whether it is right or wrong to demonize or encourage the use of the medium, but to understand what are the tools and resources that we can use for a virtuous use of artificial intelligence systems and not feed ourselves the spread of fake news.

There are many studies and experiments that show us how Artificial Intelligence can use its knowledge to actively succeed in spreading fake news, especially since our individual searches on the web and activities on social networks make available a catalog of trendy content. Based on user demand, artificial intelligence applications can spread untrustworthy information that is successful on the web. There are several state-of-the-art strategies used to create fake news. Deepfakes for instance are able to replace the face of one person in the body of another. The evolution of DeepFakes and generative networks has made our task of discerning the true from the false even more complex! 

In order to combat fake news, artificial intelligence algorithms are in place to filter out such news, inspired by the spam filters that have been in place for decades. In the field of multimedia content, intelligent defense applications are being tested, also thanks to the research of the Marche Polytechnic University. We can identify images used in different and inconsistent contexts, hunt down the news that generates high impact and negative sentiment, use video-analysis techniques to identify the person in a video or image, and check whether it is real or not. 

How to judge if it is fake news

The main advice is to research well and not share the news immediately. It is important to check the sources and consciously deduce whether the written piece is really accurate. 

It is useful to pay attention to details: the photograph accompanying the article, for example, is indicative. Another way to check the accuracy of a news item is to compare it with other sources on the web. 

Read before sharing 

The spread of social networks has played a large role in fuelling the circulation of fake news. Often we simply share content based on the title, image, and at best the snippet – the short description under the title.

The total absence of user verification of the content makes empty or blatantly false articles go viral. It is even more likely that you will relaunch established publications but base your information solely on the few words in the headline, thus receiving inaccurate and incomplete news. The advice we should keep in mind is to be careful before being unwitting actors in the dissemination of fake news.  

The battle against fake news is a great exercise in collective conscience and intelligence. It is up to us to do our part and help young people, right from their first contact with a social network and a mobile phone, to make an informed judgement.