Tech Companies Simply Don’t Care About Fake News

Actually, what we’re seeing more and more is that tech companies are moving forward with amazing stuff, but not really thinking about the consequences of it being misused. Take, for example, this BBC segment about Adobe.

In it, the narrator points out that the new technology Adobe is coming up with could easily be used to create fake photos and videos, very convincing fakes at that, even more so than what we’ve already seen with Photoshop. Adobe’s response? They’re much more interested in what people can create with it.

Or, take a look at this little Twitter thread by Kumail Nannjani about the tech companies he gets to visit as part of their show, companies who are developing products with obvious ethical concerns, yet the companies aren’t even considering them. In fact, he describes them as being shocked at anyone even asking the questions.

That’s not good. We’ve seen what happens when you open up a social network and accept advertising from anyone, anywhere, and allow the advertisers to target the ads based on a whole lot of personal information with Facebook and Twitter. They built those tools and apparently had no idea that anyone would use them for political subversion, or to harass other users, even though that was a clear and obvious use for them. They were too busy building “cool stuff” to be bothered with thinking through how it would be misused, and how to safeguard against it, and now it appears that government officials are going to be the ones to tell them how to safeguard their tools.

Yes, the same government officials who clearly don’t understand encryption and why people want it, will be the ones who decide how best to safeguard technology. Excuse me if that doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Simply put, it is clear that technology is on pace to outstrip our ability to spot fake photos/audio/video very, very soon. The entire legal system and it’s basis on hard evidence is going to be impacted, let alone the impact it will have on media credibility. When Adobe makes it super easy for creatives to completely edit out someone or something from a video, or relocate the entire city of Denver to be oceanfront with one click, how will we be able to believe anything we see and hear? Or will we go on believing it anyway, choosing instead to naively think that no one would take advantage of this technology?

The answer to that question will shape society over the next few years. Trust is an important concept in society and business. When we can no longer trust anything we see, where do we go from there?


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