11 janvier 2021
Le projet intitulé Youth’s potential to counterbalance disinformation: Exploring the case of deepfakes, disinformation powered by unethical uses of digital media, big data, and artificial intelligence, and spread through social media propaganda et soumis dans le cadre de l’Initiative conjointe pour la recherche en matière de citoyenneté numérique, une initiative conjointe du ministère du Patrimoine canadien et du Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada (CRSH) a été accepté.
Today, disinformation and online propaganda are more misleading and manipulative than ever. Their spread on social media platforms is far from being contained, let alone stopped (Charlet & Citron, 2019). Deepfakes, a particular form of disinformation that « leverages machine-learning algorithms (…) to create audio and video of real people saying and doing things they never said or did » (Chesney & Citron, 2019b, p. 1) risk to soon undermine our perceptions of what the truth is and threaten democracy (Citron, 2019). Experts predict that the deepfake technology will be utilized to cyberbully, to destroy reputations, to blackmail, to spread hate speech, to incite violence, to disrupt democratic processes (Maras & Alexandrou, 2019), and to commit cybercrime and frauds (Strupp, 2019), to name only few. The technology is moving so quickly toward being indistinguishable from reality (Knight, 2019) that it is posing alarming risks to the legitimacy of online information (Agence France-Presse, 2019). Further, the potential deepfake detection solutions, no matter how good they get, will not prevent every single deepfake from getting circulated. Meanwhile, youth are increasingly exposed to deepfakes and educators are striving to find ways to help youth develop an eagle eye for disinformation.
Thus, this study will explore youth agency as one strategy for counterbalancing deepfakes while the big tech giants and researchers in AI and related fields are hard-working to contain disinformation, which will not happen in a snap-of-a-finger. An improved youth and public awareness will not stop deepfakes, but it can certainly help reduce their impact.
The study will 1) examine how youth construe the deepfake phenomenon, 2) describe how youth recognize disinformation and determine how its content is created, the audience it’s targeting, the reaction it’s trying to achieve, and who is responsible for it, 3) explain how youth perceive their role and responsibility in counterbalancing disinformation, 4) discuss potential digital strategies that youth would use to counterbalance disinformation, 5) identify the catalysts and inhibitors to youth’s agency to counterbalance disinformation, and 6) develop recommendations to guide educators, curriculum developers and policy-makers in their quest to promote students’ critical thinking and agency in the context of disinformation powered by unethical uses of digital media, big data, and artificial intelligence, and spread through social media propaganda.
This study will develop a better understanding of the influence of deepfake on youth’s everyday life and initiate a novel methodological approach to conducting qualitative research related to countering online disinformation. The findings could guide 1) educators, social workers, curriculum developers, and policy-makers in the design of training programs that help youth become effective digital citizens and develop their skills to assess the validity of online information, namely the ones malignantly circulating on their social media platforms such as deepfakes and to withstand manipulation, regardless of its source and 2) researchers and practitioners who are concerned with the influence of deepfakes and disinformation on Canada’s ethical and responsible election processes in the years to come, as the technology becomes more and more sophisticated and the deepfakes almost undetectable.
In a context where 1) deepfakes’ potential to be weaponized is alarmingly increasing, 2) technological deepfake detection solutions, no matter how good they get, will not prevent every single deepfake from getting circulated, and 3) preparing an effective generation of digital citizens is the most important thing we can do to ensure a democracy for the future, this research project will investigate how to:
- Develop youth’s civic online reasoning, i.e., the ability to judge the credibility of information that youth find on different platforms (The Stanford History Education group, 2016),
- Develop their critical thinking with regard to the use of digital technology and help them exercise ethical citizenship in the digital age (Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, 2019).
- Prepare them for different forms of engagement in civic and political life in the digital age, to stand up to disinformation, and to identify ways to leverage the power of social media to have “greater control, voice and influence over issues that matter most in their lives” (Kahne, Hodgin & Eidman- Aadahl, 2016, p. 38).