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Fake news fails to undo the mainstream

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A global ‘Trust in News’ study, conducted by Kantar, shows that the prevalence of fake news has strengthened the public’s reliance on mainstream news media. 

The report, which surveyed 8 000 individuals across Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America about their attitudes to news coverage of politics and elections, finds:

1. The efforts to brand ‘mainstream news media’ as ‘fake news’ have largely failed. The reputation of traditional print and broadcast media outlets has proven more resilient than social media platforms and online only news outlets, primarily as a result of the depth of coverage being delivered.

2. Audiences are becoming more widely informed and sophisticated in their engagement with, and evaluation of, news content.

3. The public retain a belief that journalism is key to the health of democracy – but have become more skeptical. Specifically, in both in Brazil and USA, where a significant percentage of the population believe ‘fake news’ impacted the outcome of their most recent elections.

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Who do we trust?

The reputational fallout of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon has been predominantly borne by social media and messaging platforms, and ‘online only’ news channels. Print magazines, at 72%, are the most trusted news source, closely followed by the other traditional outlets of print newspapers and TV and radio news. Only one in three recognize social media sites and messaging apps as a trusted news source. ‘Online only’ news outlets are trusted by half of the population, significantly less than their print and broadcast brethren. Interestingly, the online presence of print and broadcast media are trusted slightly less than the originating titles and channels.

Social media and messaging platforms have sustained significant reputational damage as a source of trusted news. News coverage of politics and elections on social media platforms (among which Facebook is dominant with 84% usage in the preceding week) and messaging apps (of which Whatsapp is the most used) is ‘trusted less’ by almost sixty percent of news audiences (58% & 57% respectively) because of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. ‘Online only’ news outlets also sustained significant reputational damage in this respect: ‘trusted less’ by 41% of news audiences.

Print titles have proved more resilient, experiencing a smaller loss of trust, with print magazines and newspapers both ‘trusted less’ by 23% of audiences. However, both categories also experienced similar increases in trust in their coverage (23% and 17% respectively). Print media nets out with more than three quarters of news audiences trusting them ‘the same’ or ‘more than’ before the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. 24-hour news channels also retain a strong position as a trusted source with 78% of news audiences trusting them ‘the same’ or ‘more than’ before the ‘fake news’ narrative.

Across all four surveyed countries, 46% of news audiences believe ‘fake news’ had an influence on the outcome of their most recent election. This was most pronounced in Brazil – where 69% believed fake news had an impact, and the USA where 47% believe there was an influence. There is though some recognition that companies like Facebook and Google are taking steps to tackle ‘fake news’. (13% of UK news audiences claiming to have seen efforts vs a third of Brazilians, 16% in France and 22% in the US).

News consumption habits are evolving.

The news-reading public are becoming a more widely informed audience. 40% of news audiences have increased the number of news sources they use compared to 12 months prior. ‘All online’ has overtaken television as the primary source of news (figure 3). With under 35 year olds, social media – despite its reputational issues –almost matches television as a source of news (65% Vs 69%).

The news audience is additionally becoming a more thoughtful audience. Contrary to ‘news filter bubble’ or ‘echo chamber’ narratives, we find 40% of social media users explore alternate views to their own and almost two thirds worry that ‘personalization’ will create a ‘news filter bubble’. More than three quarters of news consumers claim to have independently fact-checked a story, while 70% have reconsidered sharing an article – worried that it might be fake news. On the flip side, almost one in five admit to sharing a story after reading only the headline.

The Kantar ‘Trust in News’ survey conducted representative sample surveys of 2,000 individuals each in Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. A more complete summary of the survey can be found on Kantar Insight pages, along with access to the full report.

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Quotes:

Eric Salama, CEO, Kantar

“Traditional news media have largely defended itself against the “fake news” accusations and continue to enjoy high levels of trust among news audiences. The challenge now is for those companies to monetize that loyalty and we’ve identified some routes for them to explore. Traditional news media need to have the confidence to invest in their brands, while devising flexible subscription models for younger generations of consumers who have grown comfortable with subscription models. Trust in News will prove a rich source of insight for all news providers trying to navigate this societally-important and fast-changing market.”

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP

I am pleased to see Trust in News confirm that brand recognition is still a key driver for direct engagement between news brands and consumers. We know the major social media companies have started to address the ‘fake news’ problem. In quantifying the extent to which ‘fake news’ has damaged the reputations of social media brands as sources of news, this study reinforces how important that work will be moving forward.”

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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