Monday, June 3, 2024

A History of Fake Things on the Internet (Walter Scheirer)

Conspiracy theories and "fake news" have long lurked in the shadows of our mainstream, even before the Internet was created in the late 20th Century. But this new creation allowed for a proliferation of fakery that has become an everyday part of our culture. In A History of Fake Things on the Internet, author Walter Scheirer discusses how technology has played a role in the advances of memes, deep fakes, and other falsehoods to the point where it's sometimes impossible to separate fact from fiction.

Hoaxes and fake imagery have a long history, predating modern computing, beginning in the 19th Century. As technology advanced and the ability to communicate electronic messages developed, sending out fake information became much easier. Creating memes, pranks, hoaxes, and hacks all gradually developed into small cottage industries, and soon bot farms and nations also engaged in the act of spreading false information.

Scheirer makes an effective argument that fake content is less the fault of advancing technology than it is human behavior. However, as technology continues to advance and AI especially continues to grow, the ability to rein in the crazy and imaginary will become ever more difficult.