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Is Western Media Biased Against China and Russia?
BEIJING - Western journalists (and bloggers) understandably often take deep satisfaction from exposing the corruption, megalomania, and banalities of authoritarian regimes -preferably great powers like China and Russia. But beware of the chupacabras and forgeries. Here are two recent stories that ain't so true:
1) Left image: Sorry, No fake sunrise for air-polluted Beijing. It’s allegedly a TV spot for tourism in China's Shandong province. [Disclaimer: I haven't seen the original commercial, though]
2) Right image: Sorry, No photographs of shirtless Putin in Sochi hotels. It’s a story by Andy Borowitz, the Jewish genius who writes fake news and other things for The New Yorker. [Disclaimer: I haven't been to all Sochi hotel rooms, yet.]
Lots of scandals and fantastic tales in China abundant: In a country of 1.3 billion people that is more diverse than European culture you’ll always find some detail that gets you freaking... How about a dog showcased as lion in a Chinese zoo, a government official with 140 mistresses, or fake Starbucks (and other knock-offs)? Oh, and here’s a woman who had her baby boy flushed down the drain (warning, graphic content!), and here’s another mother who sold her toddler for an iphone.
So, is Western media (and the public that demands such reporting) BIASED against Russia and China? Yes, and no. NO because these stories are simply funny or sensational; but YES, yes they also confirm our stereotypes. It’s a form of prejudice joke telling in the 21st Century, no?
So, how do readers know which stories are genuine? The answer is they don’t –until, that is, the rumors have been spreading to the respective, local web community to respond in kind. If we were all that finicky about the facts, that is, because by the time a hoax is properly exposed we have probably been hooked on to the next season of kookiness: How about a Chinese version of the Riddler threatening to buy The New York Times, and "reform" it? Or 'Twin toilets' (for the REAL MAN) in Sochi, Russia – 28,000 roubles each?
Image credits: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images; Alexsey Druginyn/AFP/Getty Images
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
The future of deepfakes<p>In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.</p><p>But the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=324528215059254" target="_blank">video</a> is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real. </p><p>The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-seeing-still-believing-the-deepfake-challenge-to-truth-in-politics/#cancel" target="_blank">2020 report from The Brookings Institution</a>. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes. </p><p>As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."</p>
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.