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APRIL 4 2023

Media April Fools' Day, fake news, AI: a story not to be swallowed

Jokes published the media on April 1st are a well-established media tradition, expected by some and feared by others, accused of confusing the plethora of information, true or false, to which we have access today. So, does April Fool's Day in the media add another layer to our difficulty in decoding information? Or would it play a relevant role in the fight against misinformation? What about Artificial Intelligence, an accelerator or an aid in identifying fake news? Whatever the case, the fight against disinformation is becoming increasingly crucial. Dive with us into the murky waters of information!

Sometimes false but plausible, sometimes true but implausible, the confusion created by the flood of information in which we are immersed has led some media to abandon this tradition, believing that it is not relevant to participate in mixing truth and falsehood - even in a humorous way - when every day marks the media's fight against disinformation, the importance of rigour and fact checking.

Luxembourgers are aware of being confronted with fake news: 8% of Luxembourg respondents to a Eurobarometer survey on media and news 2022, commissioned by the European Parliament, thought they had been exposed to disinformation and fake news "very often" in the last 7 days, and 20% thought it had happened "often". Only 3% did not think they had been exposed to it.

But you still need to know how to recognise fake news when you see it. So we asked you in a survey on LinkedIn. 67% of respondents feel able to recognise fake news when they see it, 11% do not feel able to, and 22% do not know if they can. It must be said that with the emergence of AI, the line between information and artificial creation is becoming increasingly blurred.

The Eurobarometer survey showed similar results with a majority of Luxembourg respondents confident in their ability to recognise misinformation when they encounter it: 11% were 'very confident' and 56% 'somewhat confident'. The level of confidence in recognising true and false information decreases with age and increases with formal education.

Beware, it bites!

So, if some people think that April 1st jokes have no place in the age of fake news, they could nevertheless help to shed light on the mechanisms of disinformation and raise awareness of the techniques of information manipulation, thus encouraging consumers of information to be more cautious.

But to preserve the credibility of the media, it is important to clearly identify the daily parenthesis that April Fool's Day represents. Of course, this would not mean sacrificing the high level of trust that Luxembourgers place in their media on the altar of humour. According to the Eurobarometer survey, 65% of Luxembourg respondents consider the audiovisual media to be a reliable source of information (compared to 49% for the European average) and 63% trust the written press (only 39% at European level).

And AI in all this, ally or Trojan horse of fake news?

Between those who believe that Artificial Intelligence is an accelerator of fake news - through its ability to generate false information (images, texts, voice reproductions, videos...) that seem authentic; and those who see AI as a help to detect and limit the spread of fake news, the information is balanced. Machine learning algorithms are now trained to recognise the patterns and characteristics that distinguish fake news from real news. AI then analyses the facts, the sources, the language or the users who contribute to their dissemination, and therefore has a role to play in detecting fake news. However, it will not replace (anytime soon) the key role of humans in analysing and verifying information, with their capacity for judgement and their fine understanding of context and connotation. And although improvements have been made in recent years, recognising sarcasm remains one of the most difficult problems for AI systems. It remains crucial to further develop mechanisms to detect and prevent AI-generated fake news.

And in all this, we decided to keep the positive. Whether it's media April Fools' Day, fake news or AI, each in its own way reminds us of the importance of fact-checking and our responsibility in disseminating information, to fight against false information and promote a culture of truth and transparency.

Author: Jennifer Pierrard - Adapted into English by Natalia Núñez Bolaño