Obama Calls for Tracking ‘Digital Fingerprints’ to Combat Misinformation

There is a need to develop “digital fingerprints” to fight against an increasing level of misinformation and distinguish between true and misleading news, former President Barack Obama said on a new edition of David Axelrod’s “The Axe Files.”

Of particular concern in this regard are deepfakes, which are digitally manipulated images, audio, or video appearing to be legitimate.  

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The former president said, “That technology’s here now.

“We’re going to have all the problems we had with misinformation before,” he said. “This next election cycle will be worse.”

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He said that means the general public has “to be more discriminating consumers of news and information [and that we need] to over time develop technologies to create watermarks or digital fingerprints so we know what is true and what is not true. There’s a whole bunch of work that’s going to have to be done there, but in the short term, it’s really going to be up to the American people to kind of say.”

Obama told Axelrod, his former White House senior adviser, “Because I was the first digital president, when I left office, I was probably the most recorded, filmed, photographed human in history, which is kind of a weird thing.”

He said the good news is that most people are now aware that “not everything that pops up on your phone is true.” But, he said, misinformation can still be used, for example, to discourage people from voting by characterizing the system as rigged and corrupt.

The former president said that “can oftentimes advantage the powerful. And I am worried about that kind of cynicism developing even further during the course of this next election.”

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