back to article Machine vs. machine battle has begun to de-fraud the internet of lies

A long-ago cartoon in The New Yorker put it plainly: "On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog." If that cartoon had been written today, the caption might have read, "On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a fraud." Scam artists, snake oil salesmen, sock puppets, bot armies and bullies - every time we look up, it seems as …


  1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    So what about?

    Chaos is bad for business.

    So how do you explain the Or fourchan, they both thrive and survive on chaos surely?

    (Also the chaos that is the commentard community is a big draw for me personally, helping me view ads for the register directly but that's my own bias simply explained)

    That said... Don't feed the trolls....

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: So what about?

      Basically put, what if chaos is your business? For example, you're an arms dealer that makes a killing in wartime conditions?

  2. An nonymous Cowerd

    I have noticed an uptick in fake news last week

    To solve this, it helps to put the fake news in context - something that simple AI rules can't realistically do yet

    Consider these news stories, what AI or machine learning can put them into context?

    ( notice that these are a rare exception of the Daily Wail seeming to make sense! )

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: I have noticed an uptick in fake news last week

      None of those stories are "news" at all, they are all clearly opinions.

      It's the total and abject failure to differentiate between these two VERY DIFFERENT types of story that's causing at least 80% of the "fake news" hysteria. Any algorithm that fails to make that distinction - will only make matters worse.

  3. jake Silver badge

    But ... but ... but ...

    .... dogs are NOT ALLOWED!

    Or, as Kibo himself put it "Poor Spot. He's not even allowed to be not allowed! He's below all that. He's JUST A DOG and will NEVER be allowed!"

    Yes, I know, I'm dating myself ;-)

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: But ... but ... but ...

      But how can the dog not be allowed if he's not allowed to not be allowed?

    2. Esme

      Re: But ... but ... but ...

      Spot carried my first email to forn parts, many many moons ago...

      (reminiscing about Fidonet, and the Point software I used on my Amiga back then.. ah, happy days!)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: But ... but ... but ...

        That wasn't Spot. That was POTS.

        1. Agamemnon

          Re: But ... but ... but ...

          I don't know what to do...downvote the pun, or upvote the dial-up reference.

          That's a tough one.

  4. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Perhaps people are getting starved because PRINTED fake news has been declining since the Weekly World Lies went out of print. I kid you not, people once PAID for fake news. Makes me think people prefer it to the real thing.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      The Sunday Sport is still in business is it not?

      (I suspect elReg's lawyers would prefer it if I didn't add the names of any other newspapers to this comment)

    2. Jay 2

      Though doesn't the printed stuff get somewhat held to account? Webby stuff can be any old thing, created by anyone.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Not really. A tiny little disclaimer that not everything in the contents is true is usually enough, if the Weekly World Lies was any example (IIRC, they didn't stop because they got into legal trouble, they simply weren't selling anymore).

        As for Sunday Sport, what's that (consider this writer is American)?

    3. Agamemnon

      Some of my buddies and I commuted from California's 'Lovely' Central Valley in to SiliVlley in the 90's and we would specifically stop at the grocery to purchse an Enquirer (or other such sillines) for us to read on the way back home.

      Picture: Up at BFAM, two hour run to work, ten hour I.T. day, assemble four I.T. professionals (at different companies), two hour run back home. Well ...

      The SUN and Enquirer are effin' Hysterical after a day in the CoLo. (Also, Four punchy geeks will laugh at anything.)

      So yeah, there is a market, of sorts. I prefer The Onion to CNN by a long shot (and if I want actual information, I'll ask John Olliver what the hell is going on).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Planet of thieves... When it comes to truth what’s good for Google & Facebook is good for rest of us

    Facebook and Google are part of the thievery, that's the problem... Its constant profiteering at the expense of everyone else.... Time to call it a day I say and lets start over with a new model. Some cases in point:


    Exhibit A:

    Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood: "In my 10 years as attorney general I have dealt with a lot of large corporate wrongdoers” -"I must say that yours is the first I have encountered to have no corporate conscience for the safety of its customers, the viability of its fellow corporations or the negative economic impact on the nation which has allowed your company to flourish.”


    Exhibit B:


    Exhibit C..Z:

    Just search the Reg...


  6. Your alien overlord - fear me

    New Turing test needed

    We need an updated Turing Test - not to see if you're a convincing AI bot but to see if you're telling the truth or are a president of a large country.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: New Turing test needed

      What next? A license to use the Internet? No more anonymity?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: New Turing test needed

        I'd be all for a license to use the Internet, with just a basic requirement to show that you actually know how to think and breathe at the same time. Anonymity is however much more important than people seem to realize. I would NEVER advocate for any sort of internet where anonymity isn't available.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: New Turing test needed

          But anonymity is the very thing that allows for false news that impresses on the stupid who can outvote you. IOW, there are negative consequences there, too.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: New Turing test needed

            The IdiotInChief & cronies/hangerson/sycophants are hardly anonymous, and between them seem to go out of their collective way to generate a metric buttload of "false news" ... at least the daily back-peddling sure makes it seem that way.

            1. uncommon_sense
              Thumb Down

              Re: New Turing test needed

              >The IdiotInChief & cronies/hangerson/sycophants are hardly anonymous, and between them seem to go out of their collective way to generate a metric buttload of "false news" ... at least the daily back-peddling sure makes it seem that way.<

              Sheep will not see!

              Sheep gets mugged, raped and murdered.

              Sheep has seen, finally, but is now a DEAD sheep!!!

              Next sheep, repeat rinse repeat...

              Just go on chewing curd, Jake...

        2. Truckle The Uncivil

          Re: New Turing test needed


          But there is no anonymity only pseudo anonymity anyway. How do you reconcile this?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My first encounter with fake news was on ITV. It was just a throw away comment on a current story at the time where they said "when they found WMD's in Iraq". As I've said before news has always been fake but when you start reading and believing the wrong fake news it's now a problem.

    The truth is always there but you now need to dig a bit deeper to get to it. I find it helps if you understand what the slant is that the media are trying to push.

    Lets take the current situation in Syria.

    America claims Assad has used chemical weapons on the insurgents.

    Russia claims Assad bombed insurgents who had chemical weapons.

    Now you have to ask yourself a few questions here,

    Would Assad take the risk? What would he gain? Did the chemical weapons actually have any effect?

    How would the insurgents get hold of chemical weapons? What benefit would it be to them to use them against Assad? If they did have chemical weapons why have they not already used them?

    My own personal opinion is that there were no chemical weapons and this is a precursor to America going in and they are sabre rattling against Russia to get them to back off. This wouldn't be the first time it has happened as we all know what happened in Afghanistan.

    I believe that because there is no way on earth Israel would allow either side to have chemical weapons. They would go in and bomb the shit out of either side.

    1. FromTheRoot

      Very much the case. The only other possibility is that this also destroys any "America"/"Russia" collusion theories often portrayed by the very bitter left.

      1. Will code

        Other way around?

        Trump still getting lots of negative press about being a Russian puppet, let's have an arguement with Russia to show he's not.

        Hey, look over here!

        Given the topic, do i need to say this is opinion, not news? :)

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      For goodness sake...

      "my own personal opinion is that there were no chemical weapons"

      ... it is even less likely that the whole thing was faked than that it was a false flag.

      As for "would Assad take the risk" ask yourself why Kim Jong Un took the risk of assassinating his half-brother. There may be reasons to consider that Assad didn't do this, but they aren't "he isn't mad or bad enough"

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      There is enough evidence to show chemical weapons WERE used. There is debate as to whether it was of a type and grade available to Assads regime. I'd find it just as believable it was the US or Russian forces under a false flag operation. I've also not seen any indication as to how the weapons were supposedly delivered. Air attack? Artillery? Large vats opened upwind?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh fuck you

    "When it comes to truth, what’s good for Google and Facebook is good for the rest of us."

    This brand of Californian tech optimism is 5 years past its sell by date.

    Facebook and Google don't care about truth. At best they'll be forced to deploy algorithms to filter the bits currently giving them negative press coverage.

    Google literally runs on click fraud, and facebook also runs on dailymail tier outrage.

  9. &rew

    Dealing with liars

    "None of that should surprise us. People are wonderful and horrible. The network we’ve built for ourselves serves both the honest and the liar. But we have no infrastructure to manage a planet of thieves."

    Reminds me of the Charles Bowen Peom:

    “The rain it raineth on the just

    And also on the unjust fella;

    But chiefly on the just, because

    The unjust hath the just’s umbrella.”

    On a level playing field, the liars often (if not always) have the advantage. It is probably good to un-level the playing field, but who will be doing the un-leveling? Who would we trust?

  10. Flak_Monkey

    We must be cautious

    "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy"

    ...except for the internet.

  11. Andytug

    "Chaos is bad for business" - Really?

    So all those financial types who bet on market volatility are doing badly? All those selling arms ro war-torn nations?

    Chaos is a pre-requisite for a lot of people to make a lot of money. That's why it keeps turning up all over the place.

    As for "fake news", what happens if your fake news blocking thingy gets just a little over sensitive and starts blocking advertising (a lot of which stretches the truth as far as it can without lying completely), what of ad firms profits then?

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: "Chaos is bad for business" - Really?

      Say rather, that there are people who do very well out of chaos. But they are outnumbered, and theoretically can be outspent, by those who don't.

      The quote is oversimplified, sure, but there is a truth underlying it: chaos is bad for business in aggregate, even if specific businesses thrive on it.

  12. heyrick Silver badge

    Who could possibly design a good fake news algorithm?

    Brexit, that all the polls said would not happen...did.

    Trump becoming President, that common sense says should not happen...did.

    I'm beginning to wonder if the news is fake or if it is reality that is fake.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: Who could possibly design a good fake news algorithm?

      As Marvin said: "Oh dear, I think you will find that reality is going on the blink again"

      And this is indeed what we find

      Doffs hat (grey Tilley today) to the late, great Douglas Adams

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Who could possibly design a good fake news algorithm?

      To give but one example, when the article boldly asserts:

      "Detecting false advertisements, bullies, and bots - all of these can be done with machine learning. It can even be applied to a politician's tweets - to find out if they’ve been fibbing about where they’ve been, and when."

      ...then that's fake news. In most cases, even human beings can't agree on whether "fake news" stories are fake or not. It is clearly beyond current "machine learning" to do so. Can we just put all this AI/ML crap back in the bin from where it was pulled by a bored journalist a year or so ago?

      1. P. Lee
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Who could possibly design a good fake news algorithm?

        Whenever I see AI/ML I read A/S/L

        I suspect the level of truthiness is about the same...

    3. itzman

      Re: Who could possibly design a good fake news algorithm?

      Define good, by some objective standard.

  13. a_yank_lurker Silver badge


    Fake news abounds but what most of the hand wringing is about that many are ignoring "our fake news" for "their fake news". If we are honest there is tons of fake news produced daily for various reasons but mostly ignorance and incompetence. Most medical and science reporting in the mass media is just pure garbage. For example, the recent Sarin gassing in Syria has created much finger pointing. But none of the "reporters" have bothered to find out how easy/difficult Sarin is to produce. This would require talking to an organic chemist and possibly doing some real research. Something many are too lazy to do. Based on the Tokyo subway Sarin attacks in the mid 90s my suspicion is the precursors to Sarin relatively easy to get and that Sarin itself is not very difficult to make by a competent organic chemist (I am an electrochemist originally). So what does the media do, report what are effectively hotel bar rumors as fact; something they have a long history of doing.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Choice

      Possibly because reporters have a pretty shrewd idea of what would happen to them if they tried to Google "how to make sarin".

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Choice

        It was a typo! I was trying to find out how to make a Sarni! Honest!

    2. jasonbrown1965

      Re: Choice

      Anytime I read the word "lazy" used in criticism of journalism, I laugh. A deep, bitter and hugely mirthless laugh, because I've actually worked in the media, and know what a slave mine it is, with a three rule business model - suck 'em in, chew 'em up, spit 'em out.

      Usually such criticism involves some jumped up academic proclaiming expertise of some sort, without bothering to even research their own media criticism.

      So, sigh, below are some news stories on Sarin production related to the Syria attack, which took about five seconds to find. Are they definitive? Of course not, and never will be until refusing comment, lying and secrecy laws are punishable by death.

      Until then, even a well resourced investigative unit can take years of digging to uncover the truth, whatever that may be. This is different from the world that Yanks are raised in, when yowling cop shows proclaim we won't get fooled again - and still solve cases within half an hour.

      Back in the real world , "lazy" might better describe claims from someone using evidence they probably scraped from Wikipedia about a 22 year old attack and faking relevance to today.

      Meantime, here's some headlines:

      Assad Personally Oversaw the Development of Nerve Gas for Use on His Own People

      Money stolen by Russian mob linked to man sanctioned for supporting Syria's chemical weapons program

      Could Britain have sold sarin chemicals to Assad's regime?

      Assad linked to chemical attacks in Syria

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Choice

        Unfortunately, "Journalism" died with Herb Caen and Stan Delaplane ...

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Speaking Truth unto Nations in the Absence of Nations Speaking Peace unto Nations.


    On the internet, everyone can know you are a fraud, and that is why systems admins are in terrified crisis and terrorising all and sundry around them, in their own little compartmented spaces with limited place and a distinct lack of novel vital intelligence.

    The BBC has lost the global plot and the lead initiative, has it not? What a sad relic and blunt useless lick spittle tool it has become.


    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Speaking Truth unto Nations in the Absence of Nations Speaking Peace unto Nations.

      amfM, I know I can't speak for anybody but myself, but speaking as a sysadmin I'm not "in terrified crisis", nor am I "terrorising all and sundry" around me. Perhaps you could elucidate why you feel this way?

      I think most of us, if pressed, would cop to "in their own little compartmented spaces with limited place and a distinct lack of novel vital intelligence." ... at least to one degree or another.

      As for: "The BBC has lost the global plot and the lead initiative, has it not? What a sad relic and blunt useless lick spittle tool it has become."

      Oh, I dunno ... With all the advertising revenue they get from BBC America, I rather suspect they are a pretty happy and sharp organization, overall. They are certainly paying their own way, and probably turning a handsome profit!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When trust verification is automated, it WILL NOT work as expected..

    True story, posting anonymously to protect the guilty: The wife & I over here in the US of A opened accounts in a local Credit Union. To fund, we wrote a check on our account at the other Big Bank in town. Check was flagged by Big Bank's fraud unit. .... !!! Can you see how it will work in the future? All statements coming out of the White House will auto-flagged as False ... or, all statements coming from the White House being auto-flagged as 100% true ... depending on the political persuasion of the organization responsible for categorizing. And so it will go, until the swirl goes down the drain...

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: When trust verification is automated, it WILL NOT work as expected..

      "A statement coming out of the White House" should give rise to the following news story:

      "The White House today issued a statement that..."

      See the form? "X said Y". All the algorithm has to do is look at the White House news page (here, if you're interested) and see if the statement is there or not. If it is, then it's Real.

      Determining the veracity of 'Y' - that is a whole different project, and the algorithm shouldn't be attempting it.

      Any story that takes any form other than "X said Y" IS NOT NEWS, either fake or real. The sooner we all grasp that, the sooner we can start parsing the real news from the fake.

      1. P. Lee

        Re: When trust verification is automated, it WILL NOT work as expected..

        >See the form? "X said Y".

        Wasn't this what CNN did, reporting what Buzzfeed had reported, but omitted all the caveats and buzzfeed's "we think this isn't actually true" statements?

        You don't need to tell untruths to lie.

        1. Brennan Young

          Re: When trust verification is automated, it WILL NOT work as expected..

          @P.Lee's "You don't need to tell untruths to lie."


          "[some] people are saying..." is one of those weasely little phrases that journalists and others prefix opinions or editorial lines with to create the illusion of false consensus. Some people say that the Register is the only tech news site worth reading. People are saying that Corbyn is unelectable. etc. etc.

          It's a surprisingly effective way of spreading lies, because these 'framing devices' are not direct lies. The most effective lies are ones that are difficult to check, such as "an intelligence agency spokesman who declined to be named said that they are convinced that Y has happened, that Z is responsible, and alternative explanations P and Q are not even worth discussing". And we're even invited to go to war on the basis of such fragments! It's not Macedonian kids chasing click bait dollars that are pushing this stuff, it's the most hallowed names in mainstream media.

          "some people are saying..." is also a variant of X said Y. The reputation and identity of X (i.e. X's "ethos") has a direct bearing on the plausibility of the news. We'd do well to remember that even those with good reputations, such as Amnesty International or Medecins Sans Frontieres, have been known to peddle falsehoods.

          If we could point at the mainstream media and say "Behold! What an impressive record of truth-telling! Your puny fake news site can't begin to compete with the ethos of those guys!" But we can't. Too many lies have spewed out. Too few retractions have occurred. It's business as usual. There's close to zero fact-checking performed on press releases, and there's close to zero recognition on the part of mainstream news organs that there is even a problem with their own editorial approaches. I put the blame squarely at the door of the news editors, PR specialists and intelligence experts who have systematically corrupted the so-called liberal media for decades. (That's 'liberal' in the classical sense btw, not the US journalistic idiom).

          This problem is at least as old as Aristotle, who defined rhetoric not as "the art of persuasion", but as "the art of seeing the persuasive in any situation". The difference is important because it implies that some times you just have to accept that the other guy/journalist has a better argument/story. And not necessarily because they're right.

          (And perhaps change tactic as a result).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: When trust verification is automated, it WILL NOT work as expected..

            But what happens when you're up against the ultimate storyteller...but what he's telling means doom for your people though they don't know it?

  16. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Once the machinery is in place and humming

    We will of course need someone to manage it. Perhaps Ms. May will decide to leave behind the strife and angst of her current position and agree to lead the newly formed Ministry of Truth. (for those in the U.S. substitute Bannon)


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