In July 2017, the Prototype first featured demonstrations of faked video content in which the University of Washington researchers created what they called a “Synthetic Obama” avatar that looked like and sounded like the former American President. The Prototype took a step further in March 2018 to declare, “The future is fake,” a pessimistic prediction that political news and the public’s perception of reality would be distorted by altered and synthetic content.
In August, US lawyer Rudy Giuliani, an associate of the current US administration declared, “The truth isn’t the truth.” That context enlightens the events of November 7 when a midterm election press conference devolved to an intern’s brief struggle to retrieve a microphone from a persistent journalist. Video of the tussle has exploded on digital media. Wired says, “The video was altered in a way that is misleading and dramatises events. It is extremely low quality, likely because it’s a combination of edits and re-uploads….
High-quality video from any of the other cameras present at the press briefing shows that, while there was contact between Acosta and the intern, it was not a strike or ‘karate chop’ as some claim.” The US White House Press Secretary forwarded the video via Twitter and claimed that it documented inappropriate behaviour that justified revoking the journalist’s access to the White House. InfoWars who created the video has been banned from Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, Vimeo, MailChimp, Twitter and LinkedIn.
In a lawsuit filed with the US District Court against the President and White House Press Secretary, Jim Acosta and CNN cite a litany of Twitter videos and #FakeNews insults. The court brief claims that “…the video shared by Press Secretary Sanders was apparently doctored, as has been reported widely. It has further been reported that the video Ms. Sanders disseminated to the public came from a contributor to InfoWars, an organisation whose ‘conspiracy theories and hateful content’ have led to it ‘being banned earlier this year by most major social media platforms.’” The future has arrived, and yes, on some websites, it’s definitely fake.
This story is featured in the 15 November 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.