Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fake versus authentic

So everybody's all excited about "fake news", and trying to figure out what it means.

And there are sites like

These are interesting efforts.

But I think it is also like trying to count all the grains of sand on the beach.

There are so many.

And more keep washing up after each storm.

Trying to identify the bad guys and keep them out seems fundamentally flawed. It strikes me as somewhat analogous to the computer security debates about "white-listing" vs "black-listing". That is, you can try to enumerate all the things you don't want, but that's a long list. Perhaps better just to make a very short list of the sources you do trust.

Or, even better, just to educate people about the need to "understand the context; understand the source".

Let's face it, the Internet is a sewer, with all the worst refuse washing through it, constantly. Ransomware attacks break into hospitals and schools and other semi-public institutions and hold their data hostage, requiring payments to organized crime. Cretins steal incriminating nude pictures of celebrities and post them widely. Authoritarian regimes use computer networks as punitive enforcement weapons.

None of this is new; I've written about it before, and I'm sure I'll be doing it again, sadly.

Sadly, nobody is safe, nobody is protected.

Who will control the robot armies, indeed?.

We are all guilty; we are all vulnerable; we are all responsible.

Even, perhaps especially, we "simple code monkeys" who, in the end, build these algorithms and deploy them on these computers.

I had the opportunity, recently, to watch Shattered Glass, the now-15-years-old dramatization of the story of Stephen Glass and the fall of The New Republic, once perhaps the most respected magazine in all of journalism. It's not the greatest movie ever made, but it's an important story, and worth watching (or at least learning about). I thought the movie did a particularly good job of showing how so many different people were complicit, in so many different ways, in what happened.

I'm not sure where the answer lies.

But I'm very happy that the discussion is considerably more lively than it has been.

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