2
0
1
9

Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

“Maybe I’m being too technologically determinist. Maybe this type of content won’t have a disproportionate impact. But the problem is I don’t think we have the ten years we need in order to wait for the longitudinal studies to be carried out.”

Over the past six months, First Draft has been involved in projects monitoring information disorder circulating in the lead up to two elections — the Brazilian presidential election and the U.S. midterms. Misinformation is still a serious problem, but it’s not the 100 percent fabricated stories that got so much press in 2016. Most of what we saw in both countries was content based on a kernel of truth. It was genuine but recycled content; it was imagery taken out of context; it was the use of statistics in ways that could be misread easily by the audience. Rather than text articles, much of this content was shared as standalone visual posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

This type of content took advantage of deep partisan divisions and was designed to reinforce positions and denigrate the other side. In both countries, we saw content clustered around four key themes: election integrity, immigration, hate (in the form of anti-Semitism, misogyny, and racism), and conspiracy theories about global networks of power. This content used dog whistles, logical fallacies, and false equivalency — all tried-and-tested methods of persuasion. This is the misinformation we should be worried about in 2019.

2018 was the year of hyperbolic headlines about “deepfakes,” technology designed to take someone’s face and to use artificial intelligence to portray them as saying or doing anything. Maybe I’m being naive, but this isn’t what I’m worried about at all. Academics and technologists agree that we’re roughly four years away from the level of sophistication that could do real harm, and there is currently an arms race afoot to produce tools to effectively detect this type of content.

Instead, I’m very worried about the drip, drip, drip of these divisive hyperpartisan memes on society. I’m particularly worried because most of this content is being shared in closed or ephemeral spaces, like Facebook or WhatsApp groups, SnapChat, or Instagram Stories. As we spend more time in these types of spaces online, inhabited by our closest friends and family, I believe we’re even more susceptible to these emotive, disproportionately visual messages. (Goes without saying we need much more research on this issue so we have a greater understanding of the impact of messages that travel between trusted connections.)

There is little the platforms could or should do with this type of legal content. Much of it cannot be fact-checked in any formal sense, and many would argue that this type of content is “politics as normal.” But we’ve never had “politics as normal” playing out on the small screens we stare at all day.

Maybe I’m being too technologically determinist. Maybe this type of content won’t have a disproportionate impact. But the problem is I don’t think we have the ten years we need in order to wait for the longitudinal studies to be carried out.

My prediction is 2019 will be the year when misinformation becomes harder to track as it moves out of sight, into more closed and ephemeral spaces. An already challenging situation is about to get much worse.

Claire Wardle is executive director of First Draft.

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Hearken   Pivot to people

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful