While both of these technologies have legitimate applications, they also present incredible opportunities for abuse. With nothing more than a webcam, YouTube and this next-generation motion capture and audio editing software, a future fake news producer could publish convincingly real video clips of world leaders making any statement - or threat - simply by speaking or typing.
Filippo Menczer runs the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at Indiana University and studies how misinformation spreads on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Menczer compares the rise of newer and better fake news tools to the "spam wars" of the past decade. Not that long ago, spambots flooded our inboxes with junk, but eventually email providers built smarter filters, making it much harder and much more expensive to be in the spam business.
Today, most spam gets trapped in the junk folder, but when will we have the same technological tools to filter out fake news?
"This is the typical arms race that we observe with any abuse of technology," Menczer told Seeker. "The first fake news bots were really easy to recognize, but now we have smarter social bots that are much harder to detect and better fake news websites that look real. It's a little scary to think what kind of damage [this new video and audio editing technology] might create."
Alexios Mantzarlis leads the International Fact-Checking Network for the Poynter Institute and closely tracks the efforts of researchers like Menczer to develop automated tools that can spot fake news before it spreads. He feels that fact-checking organizations and the mainstream press are currently outgunned.
"An 'arms race' implies that you have the same weapons," Mantzarlis told Seeker. "I think that fake news has really capitalized on existing technologies like social media newsfeed algorithms in ways that fact checkers just can't."
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Menczer at Indiana University reports that online sharing of fact-checked content - the debunking of a false story, for instance - trails fake news by 10 to 20 hours. A 2016 report from Full Fact, a U.K. fact-checking organization, said that we have existing automated tools that can greatly speed up the debunking process, but we need further investment and international cooperation to get them in the hands of journalists.
Mantzarlis at Poynter said these automated tools are nothing like filters that would block or censor online content. They simply help fact-checkers "publish stuff faster" by recognizing claims that have been debunked before or quickly comparing a politician's statement - "Unemployment is down 5 percent!" - with the best online databases.
As fake news technology evolves to include hyper-realistic video and audio clips, it will take more than automated fact-checking tools or advertising bans imposed by Facebook and Google. We the readers and consumers of social news will have to "upgrade" ourselves.
"What needs to change is the culture of interpretation," said Boczkowski of Northwestern. "When a story about Pope Francis endorsing the candidacy of Donald Trump gets more than one million shares, that tells us that we have a culture of critique that's not ready to distinguish this kind of misinformation."
In his native country of Argentina, which Boczkowski said has a long history of populist leaders and biased media organizations, Argentinians are savvy and healthily distrustful media critics. They know who owns which newspaper and which TV networks are puppets of the government.
"The U.S. has been blessed with a very different media culture and a much healthier democratic culture for most of 20th century," said Boczkowski. Until now. The recent explosion of fake news and its potential role in elections will hopefully force all of us to take a much closer look at that next article or video, before we click "share."
Photo: Face2Face real-time face capture. Credit: YouTube WATCH: Can You Spot a Fake Smile?