Is fake news a security risk?
Fake news and safety
So is fake news a security issue? Let’s take a look at a recent news story that is quite revealing.
Facebook held a press conference to explain what it’s doing to remove fake news from its pages and therefore from our feeds. CNN’s Oliver Darcy was waiting to ask a direct question about one of the most prolific sources of conspiracy-based fake news, InfoWars.
Asked by Darcy how the company could claim to be serious about online misinformation and at the same time allow InfoWars to maintain a page with nearly a million followers on its website, John Hegeman said the company it does not “remove fake news”. .”
“I guess just because it’s fake that doesn’t violate community standards,” Hegeman said, explaining that InfoWars “hasn’t violated anything that would result in its removal.”
Hegeman added: “I think part of the bottom line here is that we built Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice. And different publishers have very different points of view.”
“We work hard to find the right balance between encouraging free speech and promoting a safe and authentic community, and we believe that lower-rated, inauthentic content strikes that balance. In other words, we allow people to post it as a way to expression, but we won’t show it at the top of the News Feed”.
“That said: While sharing fake news doesn’t violate our set of Community Standards policies, we do have strategies in place to deal with actors who repeatedly share fake news. If content on a page or domain repeatedly receives a ‘fake’ rating from our third-party fact-checkers…removing your monetization and advertising privileges to remove financial incentives and drastically reduce the distribution of all your content at the page or domain level on Facebook.”
So based on that conversation, you have to wonder if the fake news press conference was anything other than, well, fake news!
If Facebook does not intend to remove fake news, then they are encouraging it, claiming to remove or reduce the ability of page owners to generate revenue on Facebook if they consider fake news peddlers.
How does this affect security?
Problems occur when those who really believe in fake news start sharing it. Viral fake news about security issues on social media, apps, or websites can often do serious reputational damage to the people they target.
It’s one thing to allow and encourage free speech, but when it starts to affect legitimate business, those at the center of the problem must be held accountable. InfoWars has advertised its site and even some of its fake news in the past through advertising on YouTube. When those ads are shown in the middle of an article from a highly reputable company, it has the effect of subliminally detracting from the reputation of these companies.
Some of the biggest brands in the US ran ads on YouTube channels for the far-right website InfoWars and its founder, notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, saying they had no idea YouTube was allowing your advertising to appear there. -CNN
And on the subject of fake news, let’s look at the person who coined the phrase:
President Trump brushed off a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta at a joint news conference Friday afternoon with UK Prime Minister Theresa May in Buckinghamshire. Earlier in the press conference, Trump attacked CNN after receiving a question from NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson. Trump said that NBC is “arguably worse than CNN.”
President, since you attacked CNN, can I ask you a question? Acosta asked Trump.
FOX News correspondent John Roberts said, “Go ahead.”
“Can I ask you a question?” Jim Acosta insisted.
“No,” Trump told him.
“CNN is fake news,” Trump said. “I do not accept questions from CNN. CNN is fake news. I do not accept questions from CNN.”
So in this case, those accused of delivering fake news don’t get a chance to ask a question! If the press publishes a story that is not true, then you have the opportunity to challenge them in a court of law, but POTUS does not bother to do so, instead offering its own brand of justice.
What is the verdict on safety?
Honestly this is damaging, the press in the UK has a duty to report honestly and fairly, failure to do so almost always results in legal action. Trump has accused the BBC of providing fake news in the past now I know the BBC has been accused of being biased in the past in some cases they have been found guilty and had to pay the price however they are funded by al UK public via a license fee and as such come under scrutiny.
Whenever public opinion is manipulated, there are security risks, be they cyber or real. The current climate of calling everything people don’t like false, instead of bringing the guilty to justice, needs to change in the real world and in the cyber environment.
As a result, the lies continue to spread and global security and cyber security is where the suffering begins.
Facebook has recently been trying to limit the damage after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. UK hype has been full of how Facebook is ditching its third-party data partnerships, in fact there’s probably a second reason for this. The GDPR would turn third-party data partnerships, like Cambridge Analytica’s, into a minefield for Facebook.
The amount of compliance that would be required, the documentation, monitoring and verification, not to mention the fines if anything went wrong, would be enormous.
Sure, Facebook was only fined £500,000 for the recent scandal, this is likely because the incident happened before GDPR came into force, future breaches would be dealt with much larger fines.
What can be done?
It seems that unless one of the affected parties takes the offending party to court, the answer may not be much. Or is that it?
The lesson to be learned here is that, according to Facebook, they won’t remove fake news even after they’ve found it. The public is, therefore, in the position of power.
Don’t believe everything you read. You can use websites like https://www.snopes.com/ which provide many resources on scams and news. You can also check the facts at https://fullfact.org/ to check the validity of a story.
If you find the story to be false, be sure to politely point it out to the person(s) promoting it.
Why is this so important? Well, there is a very successful ploy that bad guys often use, they simply look for popular news trends, create pages that promote those news or hijack existing pages and embed their own malicious code into the page. Before you know it, malware has spread across the Internet, infecting thousands or millions of computers.
In short, fake news causes real cybersecurity problems and can be much more dangerous in the real world.