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Yesterday, as I scanned the news, it occurred to me that potentially the biggest issue we will confront next year, will be the growing impact of fake news and an inability to discern real from fake.
There was news that anti-vaxxers in the United States of America (USA) were bombarding the Samoan Government’s website claiming the vaccination was the cause of the measles epidemic. Then there was the recent survey of New Zealanders that found many consider urban myths to be real. A staggering 46 percent surveyed, still consider 5G radio waves will be harmful to humans, even after the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor published an analysis of the scientific evidence to the contrary.
The scale and reach of social media makes it so easy to propagate opinions, as if they are facts. We are all naturally prone to confirmation bias, which is when we subconsciously cherry-pick information that reinforces our opinions. Unfortunately, this is the ideal combination for fake news to thrive. Add the ability to produce deep fakes; video footage that is created by artificial neural networks to look real and you can no longer really believe anything you read, see or hear. So, where does that leave us?
Recently, I have heard concerns that New Zealand may be targeted for testing in the latest wave of technologically enabled social engineering, ahead of the 2020 election. How will you know what you are reading, hearing or viewing is true? Could this present an opportunity for the media to collaborate and create some form of trust mark – only publishing news that they can guarantee is real? Or will capitalism win and we are fed whatever is found on social media, or from the USA media giants.
If that isn’t bad enough, last week CERT NZ, the Government agency responsible for tracking cybersecurity issues, reported that yet again, the previous quarter reached an all time high. With massive increases in scams and phishing, criminals are benefiting from Kiwi’s cyber-ambivalence, stealing more than $3.8 million in the last quarter alone.
Cybersecurity is one of the enablers of a successful digital nation, along with education, trade and Government policy. This week, we continue travelling around the country, developing the digital tech industry transformation plan. Today, we are workshopping in Tauranga and tomorrow it’s Hamilton. Please join us if you’re in the neighbourhood, it’s not too late to be involved.
Join NZSA tomorrow in Auckland to discuss Doing Digital Responsibly.
Register for Hack Aotearoa; AI in Healthcare, 17-19 January in Auckland.
Attend the launch of the postgraduate certificate in Human Potential for the Digital Economy tomorrow in Auckland.
Attend Future Government 2020 on 25 March in Wellington for more on serving New Zealand through a digital public service.
The New Zealand Hi-Tech Trust is seeking a trustee to join its board. Expressions of interest close on 20 December.