Learning to identify misinformation, disinformation, deepfakes and other baloney
I recently created this lesson on information credibility for our OJCS middle schoolers in the interactive format of Nearpod. I am posting the slides version here for students and teachers far and wide to use. Our young people need this now more than ever!
Here is a picture that’s been floating around online. It is a photo of a Sea-Rex.
What is your first reaction when you see this picture? Do you think it’s real or fake? Why? What are some of the reasons you think people might post a photo like this online? This is actually a photoshopped piece of art called SeaRex by Rastroboy.
It is not hard for people to use special photo editing software to change photos into something that isn’t real. This is called digitally alteringa photo. There are lots of times when changing pictures this way is just for fun or to be silly. But sometimes pictures are changed to make us believe something that isn’t true.
Look at this photo which was used as an ad for cologne. Why do you think George Clooney was digitally altered?
Did you notice that the wrinkles were taken off? That the hair was made darker and less grey? That there are no shadows under his eyes? These are all ways that digitally altering a photo can make someone look younger or better looking. Another word for this type of photo editing is called retouching. This is done in most magazines and advertisements to make people look perfect. Especially when trying to sell face creams and cosmetics so that you believe that they work! It is even done in our school photos!
But we need to understand that this isn’t real life. Nobody looks that perfect. It is impossible to look at yourself in a mirror and see this kind of flawless image (until they invent mirrors that do this electronically and that is my million dollar idea!) Understanding that these images are not real is one way that we can be kinder to ourselves when we look in the mirror. We can’t compare ourselves to what we see in magazines and online because almost every celebrity has used a special filter or had their photos professionally altered.
Sometimes people post photos of themselves online that have been heavily edited to make them look perfect and sometimes it doesn’t even look like the same person! It only took me a minute to alter my own photo on my phone. Bigger eyes. Slimmer face. No dark circles. If I post this version of myself online, do you think my friends would notice? Most of my friends, especially women, tend to do this for every photo they post up. But what does this say about the kind of high standards in beauty we hold ourselves to?
Editing faces in videos has become extremely simple too. You may have seen examples of this with the app Snapchat. You can record a video of yourself as an old person, as a hamburger, or even as a celebrity!
Here is a ridiculous video that has been edited to look like the little girl is Donald Trump!
These kind of videos are called Deepfakes. Sometimes they are harmless and funny. But often they are posted to make people think that someone did or said something that they didn’t do or say! That can lead to the person’s reputation to be ruined or worse. Imagine there was a video out there of a kid saying bad things about his/her teacher and someone put your face over it and posted it online! This could get you in a lot of trouble.
Here is one of my favourite videos about the importance of not believing everything you see and hear online. You may have seen it on TV.
This video was made to educate students about the importance of critical thinking. Critical thinking is our ability to find out what’s true and what’s not. It is really important that we always think about what we are seeing. Seeing should not always mean believing… especially when you’re online.
Your assignment this week is to drastically edit a photo of yourself! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post them on this page.