Oh, what a tangled web we weave — especially when it’s the World Wide Web that’s doing the weaving.
By now, it’s more than obvious that things found on the Internet are often not what they seem to be.
Criminal charges are regularly laid against men who mask their real identities to lure teenaged girls into Internet communications and more, and the day is not complete without an email or two from a deposed prince in Nigeria who needs your help laundering millions in illegally obtained American money.
You know, the ones that read like this: “Do you have financial problem? If yes, your problem has ended. Are you interested in being a member of a fraternity that offers you MONEY POWER RESPECT and FAME and more… Do you want to be a member of the Illuminati? We can change your life forever, give you connection all over the world. We stand as a symbol of authority we are promoting the bond of brother hood.” (The Illuminati? Why, that’s some kind of secret religious group — so it’s got to be true.)
But if it’s hard enough separating the wheat from the chaff in your email (discovering who is really planning to hand you a few million dollars for no particular reason), it turns out that email is only the beginning.
Sure, there are fake sites on the Internet that shouldn’t be believed, but researchers are now showing that millions upon millions of tweets sent out through Twitter aren’t real either.
At Indiana University, researchers sampled millions of tweets to set up an algorithm to trap something known as a social bot — social bots are fake or captured Twitter addresses that masquerade as real Twitter users and swamp the Twittersphere with spam tweets.
One of the results of the work was something called “Bot or Not?” — a web engine that can take a Twitter handle and run through all of its tweets and retweets to decide whether or not that account is showing the attributes of social bot behaviour.
(Isn’t science wonderful? We tested some Telegram reporters’ Twitter handles in Bot or Not?, but the results were inconclusive. The
system crashed instead of giving us a clear answer.)
Bot or Not? joins a bunch of other technology designed to see if the best of our technology is lying to us.
There’s now technology available to see if old pictures have been harvested, recaptioned and reused to support particular political concerns, along with others that will tell you whether or not images have been processed through modifying programs like Photoshop.
Seeing, unfortunately, is not believing.
There may be something new on the web just about every day.
Lying, in one form or another, seems to have been around forever.