Fake News Challenges for OSINT
June 18, 2018
Fake news dates back centuries and is in no way a new phenomenon. It has, however, taken a new turn for the worst in its distribution across multiple open source online channels, easily accessible in our digital age. With the forceful inception and use of social media today, spreading messages that become viral quickly is simple, and fake news is no exception.
The repercussions of fake news can be severe and can endanger the lives of individuals and society at large. Whether used to leverage political campaigns, spread propaganda of terror groups, gangs, the cyber underworld and other assailants, fake news is both illegal and poses concerns for intelligence units in national security and law enforcement agencies globally. Fake news can yield political upheavals, riots, anarchy, actual acts of terror, violence, and it can instigate other forms of detrimental crime.
The core challenge fake news poses to intelligence analysts is the process of distinguishing fake news from reliable sources in efforts to derive qualitative intelligence from open source channels. With its potential to disrupt democratic and legal order, the major setback fake news poses for intelligence agents is the complexity of gathering reliable intelligence. It poses difficulties in identifying, analyzing, and halting its spread to prevent escalation of circumstances and events, while also hindering investigative progress. While some social media users may not initiate fakes news, they can unknowingly function as a vehicle for its distribution. Herein lays the complexity of analysts or agents who rely heavily on the extraction of valuable intelligent insights from open sources that generate huge sums of data.
Defining Fake News: What Is Fake News Today and What Repercussions Does it Pose?
Fake news is used to pull on its audience’s heartstrings, a ploy to indirectly brainwash individuals or populations to believe something that is not true, or has not been proven. It is a mere claim that’s written with superlatives and sensationalist language that triggers an emotional response from readers, a form of verbal manipulation that infiltrates today’s social media platforms at an exceedingly fast pace. So fast, that human manpower has become inadequate in identifying, tracking and obliterating it to avoid the risk and damage it may incur. And so incredibly fast that analysts and agents struggle to decipher reliable news sources from those that mimic them in the form of fake news.
The Challenge: OSINT Identification of Fake News Requires Advanced Technologies
A good majority of fake news on the internet is found on obscure websites, and it is then distributed and promoted via social media by supporters of the group initiating it, or by innocent bystanders who can’t differentiate it from legitimate news. The “share” or “retweet” functions of Facebook and Twitter have the power to create more damage to civilians and the greater good of mankind than we can even imagine. Our social media presence and activity can actually deter the progress of analysts seeking critical insights from credible open sources.
Specific platforms are used to target populations of distinct geographical regions, religions, genders, educational and socioeconomic background, with messages penetrating target audiences.
The question remains, how do OSINT analysts and agents cope with our 21st century mutation of fake news distribution online? If human manpower alone can’t identify the likes of falsehoods online with the bare eye or even using skilled intelligence, and other solutions just aren’t cutting it, then what’s to become of our society and security? If professionals trained to analyze intelligence can’t distinguish between fake and fair news, how can they gather the vital intelligence needed from open sources?
The Future of OSINT: Disruptive Technology Identifies Fake News For a Better World
Intelligence agents and analysts consistently process data to generate new leads, clues or headways in the resolution of a case or investigation. But what happens when fake news is distributed amongst the open sources that are analyzed? How can analysts achieve results with accuracy when the online world is projecting false information that can’t be identified by the bare human eye? The answer: artificial intelligence.
With high volumes of open source data generated, today’s optimal solution is sophisticated artificial intelligence at the heart of web intelligence software, helping decode fake news from the real deal. As big data crunching, data mining and analysis become increasingly critical to the progress of analysts, the conventional barriers of language and semantics still pertain to the process and complexities of identifying fake news today. With natural language processing, machine learning and the ability to sift through endless data sources to extract critical findings, solutions can decipher concrete news from bogus sensationalist claims. Web intelligence solutions integrating artificial intelligence can offer the ability to recognize patterns of speech and/or writing from open sources, and all the way to dark websites. Blend this with all the power artificial intelligence can offer and analysts could be making investigative headways like never before.
What’s more, since much of today’s fake news circulates in obscure open source venues, automated collection and analysis of data is exponentially more complex and demands new technologies that evolve with the trends of fake news initiators and distributors. The optimal solution is the use and continuous development of technologies that employ rich artificial intelligence and make our world a better, safer and smarter place.