Louisiana College Students Launch Site to Battle Fake News

Students in Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication are fighting fake news with a student-managed website to track, research and analyze disinformation, fake news and deepfake videos.

by David Mitchell, The Advocate / March 2, 2020
The Russians won’t be alone in spreading disinformation in 2020. Their most likely imitator will be Iran. Also, Instagram could get even more infected with intentional misinformation than it has been. Shutterstock/igorstevanovic

(TNS) — Students in LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication are back in the fight against fake news.

Leonard Apcar, a professional-in-residence at the school, has relaunched a student-managed website dedicated to tracking the latest news, research and analysis of "disinformation, fake news and deep fake videos," LSU said in a statement Thursday.

“There are fact-checking websites, and websites for teachers and researchers, but we want our website to be a one-stop destination for everyone interested in the topics,” said Apcar, a former New York Times editor who leads the journalism school's effort to promote media literacy and combat fake news.

Located at www.detectfakenews.com, the website was created three years ago but, with the recent relaunch, "aims to be a singular resource looking at manipulated media and fakes in the upcoming 2020 election cycle."

Some of the headlines on the website Friday were these: "Russia-linked disinformation campaign fueling coronavirus alarm, US says" and "The suspicious video that helped spark an attempted coup in Gabon."

The first headline was a story from Agence France-Presse, a global news organization based in Paris and also known as AFP, reporting U.S. State Department officials' claims that bogus social media identities linked to Russia were promoting unfounded theories that the United State is behind the coronavirus outbreak.

The other headline linked to an interesting Washington Post news video. It examined how months of rumors regarding the health of Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba after he fell ill in Saudi Arabia and then a shaky national address he gave on Dec. 31, 2018, prompted a coup attempt in January 2019.

Claims that preceded the coup, some of which were aired in Gabonese media, alleged either that the man in the New Year's video was a look-alike for Ali Bongo or that the video was a "deep fake," a computer-enhanced manipulation made to look like the president.

But the Washington Post video quoted a neurologist saying the man in the televised addressed showed signs of a stroke or brain injury and also had two media technology experts run tests showing the video was almost certainly authentic.

The coup attempt was quelled in one day, but the Post video noted the video was a trigger for those who distrusted Ali Bongo and showed "how easy it is, in this age of suspect information, for governments to lose credibility."

Follow @detectfakenews on Twitter for the latest updates from the LSU website.

©2020 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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