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How To Recognize AI, Deepfakes and Misinformation in Social Media


How To Recognize AI, Deepfakes and Misinformation in Social Media

Social media is an ever-evolving, vibrant town square for exchanging ideas. Yet in recent years, it has morphed into a labyrinth where truth struggles to find a way out.

At the heart of this disorientation lies a nefarious trio: artificial intelligence (AI), deepfakes and misinformation. We’re going to help you understand the different types of AI-generated content out there and teach you how to be your own digital detective.

Can you tell if this image is AI-generated?

A woman in a blue dress is sitting down and holding multiple cats.
AI art generated by Julia Stoops

What gave it away? The three arms, extra fingers and connected hands? Maybe the unusual cat anatomy? AI is not always this easy to spot – especially if you don’t know what to look for.

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence is used in everything from social media algorithms and cell phones to automated banking and customer service chatbots. An army of bots can be created to help spread disinformation across social media accounts, which is seen most often during election periods. One mastermind hacking unit called “Team Jorge” has claimed involvement in meddling with over 33 presidential elections around the world with the use of AI and bots.

What are deepfakes?

Deepfakes have become more prevalent across social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook. Powered by AI algorithms, these tools seamlessly stitch faces and voices onto existing videos by crafting hyper-realistic illusions. Politicians seem to give statements that damage their credibility or contradict their real views. Celebrities, including Taylor Swift and Keanu Reeves, have found themselves embroiled in fabricated scandals.

How do deepfakes spread misinformation?

As technology advances and AI usage increases at a rapid pace, social media users can fall for misinformation without even knowing it. Social media algorithms are programmed for engagement above all else but can amplify that misinformation, causing it to spread like wildfire. The Pew Research Center recently asked experts for their top AI concerns by 2035, and the emergence of capable and convincingly deceptive technology was one of them: “Basic facts will be drowned out in a sea of entertaining distractions, bald-faced lies and targeted manipulation.”

How to spot AI-generated content, deepfakes and misinformation

Here are some steps to take to ensure you don’t fall prey to AI misinformation:

  • Sharpen your digital detective skills. Fact-check claims and diversify your news sources. Approach sensational headlines with skepticism. Remember, not all that glitters on the internet is gold.
  • Become a vigilant gatekeeper of your own emotions. Be wary of content designed to trigger outrage or fear. Ask yourself, “Who benefits from this narrative?” and “Does this align with verifiable facts?”
  • Amplify truth, not misinformation. Share credible sources, report disinformation and stand up for factual accuracy in online discourse. Your voice matters in the fight against digital deception.
  • Take a closer look. Photos can be faked or shown out of context. Unnatural skin tones, additional appendages and  blurred/misaligned edges can all be clues in spotting digitally altered media. 

As AI gets better and better, it will become more difficult to determine truth from fiction. However, caution, due diligence and a healthy dose of skepticism will help you determine truth from fiction. And if in doubt that something is real, ignore it and don’t share it.