Friday, December 28, 2018

How Much of the Internet Is Fake?

Max Read:

Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”


Take something as seemingly simple as how we measure web traffic. Metrics should be the most real thing on the internet: They are countable, trackable, and verifiable, and their existence undergirds the advertising business that drives our biggest social and search platforms. Yet not even Facebook, the world’s greatest data–gathering organization, seems able to produce genuine figures.

Via Nick Heer:

Aram Zucker-Scharff started a Twitter thread with some more indicators in the web on which you cannot rely: advertising, social media trends, readers, viewers, and more. If it’s a number that is important, you can bet that it is manipulated for a price.


The most alarming aspect of statistical fakery is not necessarily that it exists, but what will likely be done to combat it. Instead of admitting that these stats are likely to be manipulated and are, at best, wildly inaccurate estimates — and, therefore, that decisions should not be made based on what is reported — it is far more likely that this will lead to calls for more data collection. There will be attempts to make user identification more precise and more pervasive, particularly across devices.

Alan Zucconi:

If you are curious to understand how face-swap technology works, have a look at this new tutorial about #DeepFakes. 👨🔄👩

Jason Kottke:

The previous line contains two lies: this is not a photograph and that’s not a real person. It’s an image generated by an AI program developed by researchers at NVIDIA capable of borrowing styles from two actual photographs of real people to produce an infinite number of fake but human-like & photograph-like images.

Kevin Kelly:

None of these faces are real. All made up by AIs. The end of photography as evidence.

Previously: Influencers Are Faking Brand Deals.

Update (2019-01-08): Rob Pegoraro:

The Washington Post’s ad-tech director has had it with all the lies in this industry. Money quote from this lengthy thread: “The ad tech ecosystem doesn’t need to be pruned. It needs to be burned to the ground.”

Update (2020-04-20): Andrew Myers:

A new algorithm allows video editors to modify talking head videos as if they were editing text – copying, pasting, or adding and deleting words.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

The end of photography as evidence was surely foretold by darkroom tricks (see Stalin) and then formally buried by photoshop - AI is merely dancing on the grave.

I've noticed that lots of blogs (even ones that aren't popular at all) have started getting spam in the comments section that say something like "I really enjoy your content. You're a great writer!" (it's always generic and never mentions that content of the actual blog post) and usually they don't even link anywhere. What's the point of this type of spam?

@Ben I think it’s a way to publish a link back to their site. I’ve been getting these for years but recently have been seeing some more sophisticated ones that relate to the content of the post.

>The end of photography as evidence.

I don't think that's how that works. A photograph hasn't been evidence by itself for at least 20 years now. There's always a chain of trust involved when you present photography (or any other media - say, an audio recording) as evidence. That will continue to be the case.

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