Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

“My own experience with this came in January, when trolls mistakenly decided that a woman attending the confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson was me (and that the woman in the Senate chambers — who was not me — was doing something nefarious).”

The biggest takeaway I have from 2017 is that it was the Year of the Internet Vigilante. My own experience with this came in January, when trolls mistakenly decided that a woman attending the confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson was me (and that the woman in the Senate chambers — who was not me — was doing something nefarious).

The problem of incorrect identity continued a few days later with a Muslim American reporter, who has the same first name as the widow of the shooter who attacked the Pulse nightclub. And in that same month, a professor from New York University was attacked online for having the same name as a Secret Service agent.

This summer, a University of Arkansas professor was doxxed when self-appointed online detectives thought he looked like a man who had participated in the white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville.

In each case, the error spread quickly — and the resulting online vitriol was disconcerting and even scary. The speed of setting the record straight was far outpaced by attacks perpetuated by bots for days or even weeks.

What’s the solution? It might lie in facial-recognition technology. You might have it in your hands already, depending on which smartphone you’re using. The smarter the tech gets, the better we’ll be at comparing images to determine matches with a high degree of certainty.

As a tool for journalists, this might allow reporters to more accurately narrow down social media accounts as a story is developing. Images other than faces could also prove useful: It was an attentive copy editor who recognized the county code for the license plate on the car that plowed into the crowd in Charlottesville — that insight allowed his paper to interview the suspect’s family first.

Social media giants have said they will try to combat false information, too. Alongside encouraging users to report fake news, Facebook and other sites could use their image-recognition software to combat misinformation. Algorithms could detect the images associated with fake news, then surface reports that directly counter and debunk the bad information.

Of course there are caveats. And they are numerous. Technology can’t substitute for thorough vetting and journalism ethics. And technology that relies on faces is notoriously poor at differentiating among races.

As journalists, we should embrace ways that emerging technology can provide tools that make our lives easier. Yet we should bear in mind the prime directive: Trust but verify.

Doris Truong is the weekend homepage editor at The Washington Post.

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Burt Herman   Things get real

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Paul Ford   Go global

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Jake Levine   The return to now

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy