Spread of fake news demands tough new rules, says German AI leader

Ronja Kemmler, the chief of Germany’s artificial intelligence body, says the growth of fake news on social media platforms is 'very concerning'

ANKARA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 04: Icons of WhatsApp Messenger messaging and voice over IP service, Instagram social networking service, Social network company Facebook, YouTube video sharing company, Snapchat multimedia messaging app, Twitter news and social networking service, Swarm mobile app, Facebook Messenger messaging platform and Gmail email service applications are seen on a screen of smart phone in Ankara, Turkey on September 04, 2018. 
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The chair of Germany's artificial intelligence committee has called for tougher measures to curb the spread of fake news.

Ronja Kemmer was concerned the spread of false information would aid extremists and more action needed to be taken against it.

During the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, to incite racial hatred far-right extremists were found to have made and shared fake footage of Muslims breaching lockdown rules by attending mosques.

In a webinar held by the think tank Counter Extremism Project (CEP), Ms Kemmer gave a warning that extremists and radicals could use fake news as a tool and said the issue was "really concerning".

She called for youngsters to be educated in identifying fake news from an early age.

"We have to use the full force of the law and we have to focus more on the digital channels," she said.

"We can see the effects, the really terrible terror attack in Hanau. It is really becoming clear that the possibilities are ever more realistic; looking at deep fake news they are increasing and getting more widespread.

"Today in many cases deep fakes are still detectable, there are still some teething troubles left but the technology is really improving. Soon almost everyone will be able to produce more deep fakes and it will get more and more difficult to distinguish them.

"Reporting channels for illegal content have to be improved and be more user friendly. The platforms have to take more responsibility to take down content. It is not acceptable to just think they are not responsible, they really have to take more responsibility in these cases,” Ms Kemmer said.

"I really think it is important for the future that we improve digital literacy. If we want to deal with the challenges of deep fakes we have to improve digital education beginning from an early age at school."

Her comments came as the CEP published a report called “The Creation, Weaponisation and Detection of Deep Fakes”.

The report’s author, Professor Hany Farid from the University of California at Berkeley, explained that deep fakes, which see famous people such as US President Donald Trump having words placed over official video footage, are growing in sophistication.

"I think everyone can see the damage that this type of content can create for misinformation campaigns," he said.

"Now we have videos of someone saying whatever you want them to say to bolster that misinformation."

Dr Gerhard Wahlers, deputy secretary-general and head of the European and international co-operation department of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, added: "It is really, really, hard to decipher what is fake and what is not fake, the degree of sophistication is very, very high. It will have consequences for our society."

In June the UK's Commission for Countering Extremism called on the British government to overhaul its terror legislation to ensure extremists are not exploiting gaps in the law.

The head of the Commission for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan, has launched a legal review into the UK's terror laws but says the government needs to act now.