In this interview, Garlin Gilchrist II, executive director of the University of Michigan’s new Center for Social Media Responsibility, discusses potential tools for deterring the spread of fake news and rebuilding the public’s trust in reliable sources of news and information. Gilchrist describes how “deep fakes”—audio and video recordings that have been digitally manipulated to convince people that a politician or celebrity, for example, said something that he or she did not actually say, or did something that did not actually happen—could eventually lead to an “information apocalypse” in which fact becomes indistinguishable from fiction, and people give up trying to tell the difference.
In the wrong hands, deep fakes could even be weaponized to trigger domestic or international crises. With experience in both computer technology and community organizing, Gilchrist views fake news as a problem that will require an all-hands-on-deck approach akin to the Manhattan Project, involving not only computer scientists and engineers but also social scientists who understand how fake news propagates through social networks, and how to create incentives for spreading accurate information.
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