Deepfakes could lead to more hate crimes, wars, says Saudi editor - GulfToday

Deepfakes could lead to more hate crimes, wars, says Saudi editor


Faisal J. Abbas says, "There was a time you used to produce one newspaper a day, but imagine producing one newspaper every second, which is what we are doing now!”

If deepfakes, artificial intelligence (AI)-generated fake images, audios and videos, are not identified immediately, the world may experience major problems such as increase in hate crimes and even wars, according to Faisal J. Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Saudi Arabia-based Arab News, a leading English daily in the Middle East.

Therefore, he urged the governments, tech companies and media organisations to establish an urgent mechanism for immediate detection of deepfakes.

“Otherwise, it may lead to misinformation, and you could possibly mislead people into potential conflicts,” the top editor told the Emirates News Agency (WAM) in an interview on the sidelines of the recently held Global Media Congress (GMC) in Abu Dhabi, where he was a speaker.

Unprecedented situation in history

“You are at liberty of producing and spreading fake news in a way that humanity has not seen before,” pointed out Abbas who is also an Editorial Board member at Al Arabiya, an international Arabic television news channel.

“We have seen many incidents involving deepfake that have caused individual hate crimes. In wars, we have seen complete fake news being spread as the reality, and people are not able to know the difference,” explained the award-winning journalist.

Faking an image of oneself in a different location takes only a few seconds. These are initial steps in the AI revolution, but future deepfakes may become harder to identify and “this is why it is very concerning!” Abbas said.

Journalists’ relevance

In this juncture, the top editor stressed the role of journalists as verifiers who can stop spreading fake news. “My argument is there could not be a more important time than now for the role of a journalist!”

In the era of fake news, factual and verified information holds value and people are willing to pay for that, Abbas noted.

Therefore, the collaborative mechanism he recommended [involving the government, tech companies and media] has to work on the way forward and reward the people who are practising professional journalism and spreading the truth, and penalise those who spread fake news, the top editor suggested.

Practical mechanism to stop deepfake, fake news

Asked about the practical implementation of the suggested collaboration, Abbas responded, “I don't believe it is happening at the level where it should be.”

There are vested interests with big tech companies. The problem so far has been that regulations and laws have not caught up with the pace that technology has been developing in the past few years, the editor-in-chief observed.

Abbas called for timely reforms in media laws to better equip the media industry and journalists to address these challenges.

“Media laws in most countries are still based on traditional publishing industry. There was a time you used to produce one newspaper a day, but imagine producing one newspaper every second, which is what we are doing now!”

However, the top journalist observed, “We still lack in terms of regulations, as well as collaboration among relevant entities to meet the present challenges. We don’t realise this is as a universal problem as opposed to any one country in specific.”

A journalist for over 15 years, Abbas had worked with Future Television (Lebanon), Al Hayat pan-Arab daily, London -based Asharq Al Awsat and The Huffington Post. He has won many awards, including Social Impact Award for Saudi Arabia at the recently held British Council Study UK Alumni Awards. He is an author and regular commentator on international news channels such as CNN and BBC.

At the Global Media Congress (GMC), Abbas was a speaker on a panel that discussed, “How can Media Schools, News Media Organisations and Technology Companies Cooperate More?”

Global Media Congress

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court, the second edition of the Global Media Congress themed ‘Shaping the Future of the Media Industry' was held in November. This year’s GMC saw a phenomenal increase in attendance, with 23924 visitors, compared to 13556 the previous year, showing a 76.48 percent increase. The number of participating countries also increased, with 172 countries, among them 31 new countries participating for the first time.


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