GSAN: Chatbots invent sources | Fake Trump mug shots | Latest Twitter turmoil


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Chatbots invent sources | Fake Trump mug shots | Latest Twitter turmoil


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An illustration of three people holding digital devices while sitting on an enlarged smartphone with a chatbot figure and chat bubbles.
AI generative tools are evolving rapidly, and the technology is largely unregulated. (Illustration credit:

A new source of AI-generated misinformation is Google’s new chatbot, Bard, according to findings in a study published April 5. The Center for Countering Digital Hate tested the bot and found it generated misinformation on 78 out of 100 false narratives about topics like vaccines, LGBTQ+ hate, sexism and racism “without any additional context negating the false claims.”

AI chatbots are also raising concerns because they cite nonexistent articles from legitimate news outlets as evidence to support false claims. When ChatGPT made up sexual harassment allegations against a law professor, it cited a fabricated Washington Post article. And the Guardian has reported being contacted by a researcher and a student looking for articles in the newspaper after seeing it cited on ChatGPT, only to find that the articles do not exist.

Changes to verification badges on social media platforms are raising important questions about how users can best determine the credibility of sources. On Twitter, The New York Times account recently lost its blue check mark after refusing — like many news organizations — to pay for Twitter Blue. While verification badges previously offered some protection against impersonation accounts, check marks alone are not a mark of credibility.

Meanwhile, Twitter added a “U.S. state-affiliated media” label to NPR’s account on April 4, which the public radio network said was inaccurate because it “operates independently of the U.S. government” and receives less than 1% of its annual operating budget from federal sources. (Amid criticism, Twitter later changed the label to “Government-funded Media,” which remained on NPR’s account as of April 10.)

What’s the best way to counteract conspiracy theories? The most promising strategy is prevention — including by teaching people critical thinking strategies and “how to spot shoddy evidence” before they’re exposed to conspiracy beliefs, according to a new study by behavioral researchers in Ireland. Among the least effective methods? Appealing to empathy or ridiculing people who believe in conspiracy theories, the research found.

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No, those Trump mug shot images aren’t real

A collage features several images that appear to be mug shots of former President Donald Trump and a tweet that reads “DONALD TRUMP MUGSHOT DROPPED.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “AI-GENERATED IMAGES.”

NO: These are not authentic mugs shots of former President Donald Trump. YES: Trump was arraigned and charged April 4 with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. NO: Trump was not put in handcuffs and did not have his mug shot taken. YES: Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges.

NewsLit takeaway: AI-image generators have provided purveyors of misinformation a new tool that can quickly create convincing photo fabrications with a few simple text inputs. That makes it particularly important for social media users to stay alert when scrolling through their feeds, especially during breaking news events. Users can investigate the authenticity of these and other viral images by double-checking the source via reverse image searches and lateral reading.


Fake ‘Morgan Freeman’ video criticizes Biden for ice cream comments

A tweet reads “Morgan Freeman BLASTS Joe Biden for being an incompetent ice cream-loving FOOL” and features a video supposedly showing the actor deriding the president. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “NOT MORGAN FREEMAN.”

NO: This video does not show actor Morgan Freeman criticizing President Joe Biden for talking about his love of ice cream during a White House event before later commenting on the March 27 Nashville, Tennessee, school shooting. YES: A celebrity voice impersonator used a video filter to create this clip.

NewsLit takeaway: How much weight would you place on a random stranger’s political opinion? What about a celebrity who you admire? Dishonest partisans use doctored photos that show celebrities in political T-shirts, misattribute political social media screeds, and spread deepfakes or AI-manipulated videos.

The best way for readers to protect themselves from deceptive impostor content is to double-check the source. Readers who searched Freeman’s official social media accounts would have found no trace of this video.

A barrage of conspiracy theories upended the life of Tiffany Dover, a nurse who fainted on camera after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in late 2020. Many falsely claimed she had died. Her response? Initially, two years of silence — which ended up fueling the conspiracies and anti-vaccine propaganda even more — but now she’s speaking out.
Can you tell whether an image is AI-generated or not? As the technology advances rapidly, it becomes more difficult to detect, and as one expert says, “newsrooms will increasingly struggle to authenticate content.”
Trust is a key factor in how news on social media impacts teen mental health, according to psychology research led by Cornell University. The findings underscore the need for news literacy and “a more nuanced understanding of how social media use impacts well-being and mental health.”
Among American journalists, women are more likely to cover health and education, while men are more likely to cover sports. That’s among the findings of this Pew Research Center survey of nearly 12,000 journalists.
About 200 Russian journalists and activists signed an open letter demanding the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, the first American reporter arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. State Department declared Gershkovich “wrongfully detained” and media historians say Gershkovich’s detention harks back to “old Soviet tactics.”
ICYMI: In case you missed it, the most-clicked story link of the last Get Smart About News issue was this AFP Fact Check list of tips to help identify AI-generated images.
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Your weekly issue of Get Smart About News is created by Susan Minichiello (@susanmini), Dan Evon (@danieljevon), Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) and Pamela Brunskill (@PamelaBrunskill). It is edited by Mary Kane (@marykkane) and Lourdes Venard (@lourdesvenard).

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