We consume more media and information today than ever before. With just a few minutes we can change the minds and hearts of many people. Unfortunately some folks have learned to abuse that power; fake tweets, posts, articles and photos have become increasingly pervasive. It is not a new media practice. It’s our job to be vigilante and filter out false media. Here’s how it’s done:
Celebrities, companies, and famous athletes have all been acclimating themselves to twitter to share with the world. Once verified, the opinions and even tirades of the account holder are only one button away from the entire world to see. Many people have had their accounts hacked by individuals savvy enough to guess their passwords, but the real blight of false media lies in fake tweets. It only takes a couple of seconds to fabricate a fake tweet. Let’s take one of my favorite musicians Alicia Keys and run her account through the fake tweet generator called lemmetweetthatforyou.
This service allows you to spoof any active account, create the tweet, modify the shares, and link the screenshot. Nowadays a simple screenshot is enough to get folks hot under the collar, and with this I could possibly have PETA knocking on Alicia Keys’ door.
Looks pretty real, eh?
Fake Facebook Posts
Just like with Twitter you can use online services to create or even modify current Facebook posts. Instead of creating a new post this time lets modify an existing one with comments already attached. I will even take one of mine.
This is the original post. As you can see it is fairly harmless – I made a statement and my friend responded. But what if I wanted to stir up some trouble? Enter…the development console. Every modern web browser has it. The developer console is a great tool for analyzing every part of your web page. You can explore it on your own, but one of the main features is the ability to modify some of the HTML that has already been rendered. In this case I will modify the text of the Facebook post.
I opened the console and found the area where my text is. Keep in mind this does not permanently change what you actually posted. It just changes what the web page has rendered. If you refresh the page you will see that your original post has not changed.
See? Remember that in order to stir up trouble I need to screen shot to convince others that it is authentic. The original post did not change so other people will not see this modification. This is a very tame example, but you can see how easy it is to do.
Fake News Articles
If you haven’t been on the internet very long you might be inclined to think that everything you read is real. As a 30 year internet veteran I am a bit more jaded, but I cannot say the same for my friends who frequently diseminate false information. That being said let’s explore what it takes to build and spread a fake news website. It’s not much.
I’m going to create a fake news website at realnews.weathersmedia.com and quickly set up a news platform using WordPress. This whole process will take me about 10 minutes.
Let’s write our fake article about…I don’t know…how the president is actually an alien from Jupiter.
Now the site looks bland and barren, lets make it look legitimate…..
..and fill it up with fake content.
Almost done. Let’s plant our fake article on Facebook and Twitter.
I knew the president was an alien. Says it right here – https://t.co/QL98Xd2DgO
— Chris Weathers (@cweathers) December 7, 2016
Wait for the shares to roll in.
And right there you have just disseminated the fakest news story in history. Just wait to hear it being discussed in public. You may even get picked up by a major news outlet.
Fake Text Conversation
Many people don’t know that you can spoof a text conversation. This is an effective way to share what people think is a private conversation. There are actually 3 ways people do this:
- Changing a contact in your phone and having a conversation with yourself.
- Using your favorite image editing software and creating the conversation that way.
- Using an online service. There’s one for iPhone and one for Android.
If I wanted to frame John for stealing my sandwich from the office fridge I could simply send this to my colleagues. They might think it is real. He could get reprimanded. A hot mess ensues.
We all know how images can be manipulated. This technique has existed since the advent of the camera. Let’s take 5 minutes and convince everyone that I got stung in the nose by a wasp with a crudely edited photo: