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How Much of the Internet Is Fake?

By Intelligencer

Turns out, a lot of it, actuallyRead full story

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  • “I know one thing, that I know nothing.” —Socrates. 2500 years later, just as true.

  • If you read only one article today, make it this one.

    The scale of fakery on the internet has become overwhelming. More than half the internet is fake “people,” fake “interactions,” fake “content” ... often some combination of the three. Automated systems acting as gatekeepers test whether we are real in ways that are increasingly frustrating and even dehumanizing. This is having a profound impact on our perception of reality. We are beginning to assume some degree of fraudulence in everything

    If you read only one article today, make it this one.

    The scale of fakery on the internet has become overwhelming. More than half the internet is fake “people,” fake “interactions,” fake “content” ... often some combination of the three. Automated systems acting as gatekeepers test whether we are real in ways that are increasingly frustrating and even dehumanizing. This is having a profound impact on our perception of reality. We are beginning to assume some degree of fraudulence in everything, even what is demonstrably true.

    I hope we have the courage to do something about today’s internet before dystopia sets in.

  • Predicted by a lot of people. Starts with the online advertising business model, which is fundamentally corrupt and exploitative as its been constructed/implemented. The big platforms can’t stop this now because they were designed to deceive and manipulate us at scale. There are ways to fix this, but not without changing how the business model currently works.

  • I’m part of the last generation to know what’s it like to NOT have a PC, a smart device, or a mobile phone in the house. The digital/internet transformation has been one from a Hollywood script - in the beginning the future was so bright, so promising and now we find ourselves faced with some of the toughest questions ever contemplated by man - AI, privacy, corporate responsibility, digital commerce (including illicit digital commerce), racial/gender/economic inequality, etc. All built, enabled

    I’m part of the last generation to know what’s it like to NOT have a PC, a smart device, or a mobile phone in the house. The digital/internet transformation has been one from a Hollywood script - in the beginning the future was so bright, so promising and now we find ourselves faced with some of the toughest questions ever contemplated by man - AI, privacy, corporate responsibility, digital commerce (including illicit digital commerce), racial/gender/economic inequality, etc. All built, enabled, disabled, fueled, and proliferated by our digital networks, our social networks, and the internet in general.

    This massive scale of deplorable human behavior cannot go unchecked - it’s digital warfare and it must be addressed. History shows us what happens when this type of behavior is left to do fester and police itself. The digital face of it all makes it easier to ignore as the victims seem so distant and impersonal - my how a little screen can divert accountability and responsibility so easily. We have to do something to protect ourselves and our future - we have to make a conscious choice and if that means living a more analog life - I’m all for it! The next Great War of our time will not be fought IRL - it will be fought on a digital battlefield against faceless, nameless enemies and so much more than human lives will be at stake.

  • Fraudulence and deceit will be a major catalyst in the ultimate breakup of the internet.

    The internet in its present iteration cannot be regulated. Broken into regions, it may not need to be regulated.

    But this article needs be taken - obviously - with a grain of salt. Total deceptive actions on the internet and the deceptive actions you encounter aren’t the same. Millions of bots creating false advertising clicks doesn’t make half the credible content fake. Today, more than ever, know your source.

  • This is what happens when growth is measured in attention, and increased attention means better users. Look at Pinterest, and see how their growth is more “genuine” than a lot of others. Check out this podcast episode on Growth with Pinterest’s Casey Winters: https://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=51609009&autoplay=1

  • Quartz has become one of my favorite news apps. I knew that a portion of the Internet had fake information, but I didn’t know that it was this severe.

  • This is a huge problem (another one associated with the advertising business model - although technical work could reduce the issues).

  • Great article. I’m trying to be cynical about the cynicism but I can’t. It’s hard to admit it, but the dream of a digital utopia is dead and buried and what’s left is a gritty, strange (un)reality. Pandora’s box has been kicked open and where we go next is anyone’s guess. Just please don’t tell me we can measure it.

  • Rob Bucci
    Rob BucciCEO at STAT Search Analytics

    From my perspective-as someone who has spent the last decade building bots, crawlers, and scrapers-this article is on point.

    Thanks to things like headless chrome and phantomjs, it’s simple these days to emulate humans behind a mouse, and cloud computing makes it more scalable than ever.

    The internet is anonymous by design; part of the radical ideals of the original founders of the protocols. Any solutions to this problem that propose a single federated identity system may seem practical, but

    From my perspective-as someone who has spent the last decade building bots, crawlers, and scrapers-this article is on point.

    Thanks to things like headless chrome and phantomjs, it’s simple these days to emulate humans behind a mouse, and cloud computing makes it more scalable than ever.

    The internet is anonymous by design; part of the radical ideals of the original founders of the protocols. Any solutions to this problem that propose a single federated identity system may seem practical, but this will violate this fundamental principal that the internet was built on. This is a super interesting problem space to be working in right now.

  • Conrad Quilty-Harper
    Conrad Quilty-HarperDigital Editor at New Scientist

    This is an interesting story but surely anyone who's using these platforms to achieve a goal connects this data with other, more relevant data? If you're selling sunglasses using digital ads, surely you have an idea how effective they are because of sales? Those are impossible to fake.

  • James Randorff
    James RandorffMusician, Instructor at US Navy

    Well… dang!

    ----------

    "How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was 'bots masquerading as people,' a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot

    Well… dang!

    ----------

    "How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was 'bots masquerading as people,' a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event 'the Inversion.'"

  • Jay Margolis
    Jay MargolisChairman at Intuit Consulting

    Please read this article. Freedom of speech vs obvious fake news, how does this play out? When Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch decided that there was always another side to the story- journalism changed.

  • Kyle King
    Kyle King

    In large part this article is less about how the internet is fake and more about how people have undermined the entire digital/social media marketing industry.

    In large part I think we would have expected this. The industry has focused on clicks and views and as “metrics” and less on sales. Where this article does make a good point, one of many, is that the inversion point has been reached on social media marketing.

    It’s largely all fake engagement now and trying to fix that, regardless of micro

    In large part this article is less about how the internet is fake and more about how people have undermined the entire digital/social media marketing industry.

    In large part I think we would have expected this. The industry has focused on clicks and views and as “metrics” and less on sales. Where this article does make a good point, one of many, is that the inversion point has been reached on social media marketing.

    It’s largely all fake engagement now and trying to fix that, regardless of micro or nano influencers, or new algorithms, is going to be very difficult if not impossible.

  • Che Hammond
    Che Hammond

    Great article. But I don’t think the ending prescription (spoiler alert) of cultural change in Silicon Valley is going to do it for some of these problems. First off, it may be the case that the algorithms have been optimized to exploit sub-rational impulses. That is, impulses that most folks are not aware of and may not have any rational basis to reflect upon and change. In essence the algorithms may have “hacked our humanity.” Fighting our addiction to the dopamine hits associated with the validation

    Great article. But I don’t think the ending prescription (spoiler alert) of cultural change in Silicon Valley is going to do it for some of these problems. First off, it may be the case that the algorithms have been optimized to exploit sub-rational impulses. That is, impulses that most folks are not aware of and may not have any rational basis to reflect upon and change. In essence the algorithms may have “hacked our humanity.” Fighting our addiction to the dopamine hits associated with the validation of social media (including self righteousness and virtue signaling) may be as difficult as fighting our addiction to sugar. The second, most dangerous, implication of the article is that if we live in a “post fact/reality” we devolve into nihilism. The trolls will claim there’s no such thing as truth. And even well meaning people will get frustrated in their communication because they can’t find an objective frame in which to discuss contentious issues. Instead we’ll all get to choose our reality making discussions across “realities” nearly impossible. This is an important article, but dire in its implications (imho).

  • Scary when the ads are the most real thing we are seeing! ‘Fake people with fake cookies and fake social-media accounts, fake-moving their fake cursors, fake-clicking on fake websites — the fraudsters had essentially created a simulacrum of the internet, where the only real things were the ads.’

  • Claudio Cammarano
    Claudio CammaranoMarketing Manager at Gruppo Mondadori

    A pretty nice climax with the headlines! :-)

    However, fake news are as ancient as mass communication, and possibly even older... The key problem, here, is certainly the scale reached so far, and the failing business models used by most publishers nowadays.

    As publishers, if we want to fix it we need to research on new business models as much as on new ideas and products.

  • Rodel Urani
    Rodel UraniChairman at iclassed

    Might be true in its claims 100%. But the Internet, I believe, is still at its integrity 100%.

  • How long is a piece of string? Longer than that.

  • Patricia Lincourt
    Patricia LincourtSocial Worker

    Snake oil. It brought us the FDA ultimately.

  • Ethan Dickenson
    Ethan Dickenson

    You would think, there would be a way to identify and destroy bots designed to fake user interaction (bot feeding bot). It’s not been done because ‘it’s not my job man’. If we put as much energy into killing them as we have into creating them..., I think we could resolve this issue, another would undoubtedly take its place, but we could have ‘peace’ or ‘truth’ for a while. It would be interesting to see if “you can’t handle the truth”.

  • I find it ironic that we now call all this 'fake' when some years ago we called it 'progress'. Also it reads as a manifest from a late romantic. There are many things in our world that are 'fake' or better 'automated'. I wonder why we say something is fake but not industrialized like any car we drive nowadays. The internet is just an augmented mirror of reality. It amplifies what we already have. All these monsters they're pointing out, we already have them in real life. It's just scary when you

    I find it ironic that we now call all this 'fake' when some years ago we called it 'progress'. Also it reads as a manifest from a late romantic. There are many things in our world that are 'fake' or better 'automated'. I wonder why we say something is fake but not industrialized like any car we drive nowadays. The internet is just an augmented mirror of reality. It amplifies what we already have. All these monsters they're pointing out, we already have them in real life. It's just scary when you look into the mirror and realize that you just gave birth to Frankenstein. Welcome to the new world order.

  • Devin Crossman
    Devin CrossmanOwner operator at DMK Oilfield

    I’d rather have choice of 5000 opinions/ideas and 2500 be “fake” rather then a world of dictators that choose what you believe or choose is fake🤷🏼‍♂️

  • Trey Hopkins
    Trey HopkinsSoftware Tech

    I believe were moving to a time where the internet may need to put in place more authentication methods that align with methods like obtaining a drivers license or owning a car and home. This should be done in a way that ensures the freedoms of internet use but better stops fraud and bot activity at the source.

  • The sector most affected by this, imo, is digital advertising: from right at the beginning of the article, "the fraudsters had essentially created a simulacrum of the internet, where the only real things were the ad."

    It's absurd to think that fraud like this is limited to those two scammers. Stupendous amounts of money are spent by companies on ads that aren't actually working, but are believed to be working because of the "interactions" metric... but if those interactions are fake then that money

    The sector most affected by this, imo, is digital advertising: from right at the beginning of the article, "the fraudsters had essentially created a simulacrum of the internet, where the only real things were the ad."

    It's absurd to think that fraud like this is limited to those two scammers. Stupendous amounts of money are spent by companies on ads that aren't actually working, but are believed to be working because of the "interactions" metric... but if those interactions are fake then that money would be more useful as kindling. The core problem is how difficult it is (as the mere existence of this article shows) to reliably verify that such interactions aren't fake. If the problem isn't dealt with soon, I struggle to imagine a trajectory that won't end in a catastrophic industry collapse. Remember when Facebook was caught inflating its metrics by as much as 900 percent? Now consider the possibility that ALL internet advertisement metrics are like that; even assuming a much smaller and subtler scale-- say, 50 percent avg inflation across all major impression metrics-- the number of real dollars wasted on fake impressions is staggering.

    "For a period of time in 2013 a full half of YouTube traffic was 'bots masquerading as people,' a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake."

    Notice how YouTube is full of people making serious money off of garbage "content" no sane human could watch (think Logan Paul and his ilk, for one, those trippy sweatshop-made "kids" videos for another). Are all those millions of subscribers and viewers actually real? Or are these youtubers, knowingly or not, raking in ad dollars based on their huge audiences... without audiences?

    How long is this really sustainable for?

  • Scott Morris
    Scott Morris

    The pieces that I pay attention to are no political. History pieces are usually factual, if they don’t deal with the current political climate. The Internet is no different than any other form of media communication, take it all with a large grain of salt. As Mark Twain, who was a reporter, once said “Don’t read newspapers and be uninformed, read a newspaper and be misinformed”

  • To say the least, I’m shook.

  • Gerald Munn
    Gerald Munn

    Yesterday the fake news said President Trump wasn’t visiting any troops not knowing his plan to go to Iraq.

    Will anyone apologize I doubt. Maybe in the future they’ll wait from now on before they make reckless reports.Give some leeway to someone who’s proven himself already for being able to get things done in the midst of hateful resentful ingrates .God sees it all Amen

  • Roland Jones
    Roland Jones

    I desired becoming an Internet marketer then I see all this bull shit advertising and it bothers my conscience to put crap ad lies,false representations,and all I can say is it's a shame.

  • Louise Sumrell
    Louise Sumrell

    How about,"the more I know, the more I realize there is that I don't know." I'm not going to Google it. I'm pretty sure it was Einstein (?)

  • Nekka Nekka
    Nekka Nekka

    So what has the NIgerian princes got to do with this post ? Why do we have to deviate this much to pass a message ?

  • Robert Shaw IV
    Robert Shaw IV

    If you’re reading this, you’re looking at a fake news site now.

  • Steven Storer
    Steven Storer

    Forget the singularity, fear the inversion (it’s already here)!

  • Considering the times people post opinions rather than fact, that depends.

  • Tanner Lin
    Tanner Lin

    Whose fault ? Just come for money

  • Betina Merrild
    Betina Merrild

    How did we get to here??

  • S.  C.
    S. C.

    Great article.

    This reflects the sorry state of people these days. No longer capable of forming independent thought, to the point where they look to others to see what is popular, in opinions; in what is desirable to eat, watch, wear, read, visit, and so much more.

    On the other hand, if companies get duped and waste their ad dollars, that’s just their stupidity.

  • Valerio  Veo
    Valerio Veo

    The bots are taking over the asylum - how do we best deal with the inevitability of The Inversion and still make great content which is relevant for both audiences and partners??

  • Alex Forgue
    Alex Forgue

    Great read!

  • Thomas Jackson
    Thomas Jackson

    Yea-, you so smart.

  • Cody Moore
    Cody Moore

    Read later

  • Ariana Basciani Fernández
    Ariana Basciani Fernández

    Word

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