Disinformation and vaccine hesitancy have been hot topics in recent news, and it's important to stay informed on the latest developments. In the latest episode, we'll be discussing our top picks and exploring the pros and cons of AI-assisted news review.
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Links to the news discussed:
Eva Schaper 0:07
Hello and welcome to the inoculation. Today we're going to look at some recent news around disinformation. My name is Eva von Schaper. And my co host is Daiva Repeckaite.
Daiva Repeckaite 0:20
Eva Schaper 0:20
And I have a bit of a surprise for you. What is that I was looking through some recent news. And I decided I will ask a machine to summarise the articles. So I asked chat GPT, which is AI software, to summarise some articles. And if you're interested in chat GVT we did a whole episode on that earlier last year, it's quite interesting to go in to listen to that. People were thinking about chat with the GPT last year, how there was really not an inkling of how it could be released, everybody can use Chat GPT now.
Daiva Repeckaite 0:59
So what do you have for us today?
Eva Schaper 1:02
Um, so the first one I looked at was an article in Wired. And this is I open up chat GPT and basically copy and paste it. And I said, all I did I typed in summarise this. And what I received is, and this is really a verbatim, "article from Wired UK describes Twitter's efforts to combat the spread of false information, and vaccine conspiracy theories on its platform. The company has implemented measures such as adding labels to tweets containing misinformation, partnering with health organisations to provide accurate information, and cracking down on accounts that repeatedly spread false info. Twitter also intends to reduce the visibility of Tweets that contain harmful information, but still allow users to access and discuss them. Despite these efforts, conspiracy theories continue to spread on the platform."
Daiva Repeckaite 2:04
Right, it's clear what I can expect to find there. But so far, I'm waiting to hear what's new.
Eva Schaper 2:14
Exactly. So I think the summary is actually it's good, and it's correct, but it's missing a lot of what we would call the gist of the article.
Daiva Repeckaite 2:24
Exactly. And if we send something similar to our editors, we would be out of job in no time.
Eva Schaper 2:32
If you compare the headline. You know, the wired headline is, Twitter is a megaphone for sudden death vaccine conspiracy. This pulls me in and this is a lot more interesting than what Chat GPT gave me. And also, the Wired article starts off by saying, with an anecdote when British radio DJ Tom gow passed away suddenly during a podcast in during a broadcast in 2022, his friend and colleague James Hazel barely had time to mourn. And here and they continue anti vaccine conspiracy theorists seized upon ghosts deaths, and turned his Twitter and Instagram feeds into a store of disinformation and abuse
Daiva Repeckaite 3:17
Eva Schaper 3:20
Maybe one thing I just said and I went back and chat GPT another article and this was from DFR lab and it was how China funds foreign influence campaigns. And so the first I mean, what was really the what was really interesting in this experience for me was using open AI I feel so normal that you know, I see what I typed, I said, please summarise, so I think you know, am I speaking to human or machine, so is it please Summarise the link. I didn't even copy and paste I just added the link. This is what open AI gave me. "The article how China funds foreign influence campaigns describes how China is funding and influencing foreign media organisations and politicians through various means, including state owned companies foundation propaganda outlets. The aim of these campaigns is to promote China's image and interests abroad and to counter negative media coverage. The article highlights the need for increased transparency and accountability in order to counteract China's influence efforts." Because I had wised up to chat GPT's ways I said, oh, please give me some examples from the articles. And so the output is "state owned companies funding media outlets and organisations. China Daily for instance, has been identified as a state run media organisation that has been funding for outlets and organisations to promote a positive image of China abroad. The article mentions that China has established foundations and think tanks in several countries to fund research and activities that promote China's interests. Propaganda outlets, state run media outlets, such as XinHua news agency and China's central talent are used to spread China's use and influence foreign foreign media and influence on politicians. The article cites cases of Chinese companies and organisations using foreign politicians to promote their interests and secure liberal policies." So this I already thought was a lot better.
Daiva Repeckaite 5:45
So in fact, it's not replacing reading the article, it's maybe we could use it to help us to decide whether to read the article because it tells us what we can expect to find. But it doesn't really replicate the enjoyment, if you will, of reading the article.
Eva Schaper 6:04
Not only the enjoyment, I do think it fails to convey some of the feeling that these articles bring across. So yes, the summary is correct. But it's very, very neutral. And it sounds very bland. Third article, "Finland has been successful in teaching its students about misinformation, in a survey of 41 European countries for resilience against misinformation. contributing factors to Finland success include a strong education system, a high trusting, a highly respected teaching profession, and free college education. In contrast, the US was not included in the survey. But other polls show that trust in news media is at a record low." So again, I think the summary is correct.
Daiva Repeckaite 7:01
Yeah, it sounds like an academic abstract, though, like a an abstract of an academic paper.
Eva Schaper 7:08
Yes, it does sound really dry. And so for me if I summarise an article, I think one of the most interesting things is the the most succinct, the most interesting quotes. Chat GPT doesn't do that. And it also just leaves out some of the tidbits. For example, did you know that since finish is spoken by 5.4 million people, and articles containing falsehoods that are written by non native speakers, often times be easily identified because of grammatical or syntax errors?
Daiva Repeckaite 7:44
This is an important detail, which is also something that we see in the Baltics.
Eva Schaper 7:51
Those are the things I found. And again, it's leaving out a lot of the examples. And a lot of the things that would draw a reader into an article that would allow me as a reader to remember the article and to really be drawn in. And I think that's really a big drawback that Chat GPT has.
Daiva Repeckaite 8:15
Right. So yes, I think it's quite clear that please continue reading news articles. Don't switch to AI just yet. You will fall asleep very soon. If you do.
Eva Schaper 8:33
I also, I mean, I think also the one thing where Chat GPT failed, I asked chat GPT to summarise an academic article. And so I just copy it like as with the first piece, I copy and pasted the address, please summarise. And the response I got was "I'm sorry, but I cannot summarise the content of it, as it appears to be an error page on the Pub Pub platform." So it wasn't an error page. It just for some reason, just chat GPT couldn't work on it. What I did was I went back and I copy and pasted the whole article, which was quite long, but horrendously long, and I asked a chat GPT to summarise again. But then they I just got the reply. The article was too long and chat GPT just basically refused to summarise, refused to work on it.
Daiva Repeckaite 9:37
Yeah, but this is where something like an automatic summary would be very useful because if we're not academics, we would really benefit from a summary that's kind of gets that gives us the gist. Whereas the four news articles we would like to enjoy the story. We can generate a sort of an academic abstract style summary, with GPT. From news articles, but not from academic articles, were we really needed.
Eva Schaper 10:12
Well, I don't know. I mean, this is actually, this wasn't right with one article. I'm not sure that this would in chat GPT would never be would never be able to summarise an article, totally possible that I made a mistake while inputting the article. Yes, it has its limitations. But it's, it's an incredible tool.
Daiva Repeckaite 10:38
And again, we need to remind ourselves and our listeners that we're working in English, which is the most popular language for these things in the world, so it will take a while until we can get kind of good service for four news summaries in other languages,
Eva Schaper 10:59
if you're right, what did you find especially interesting this week?
Daiva Repeckaite 11:03
this week, and I'm, as I'm kind of easing into my fellowship in Florence. And where the European Digital Media observatory is also based. I read their reports about about the died suddenly conspiracy, which was also covered in the Wired article that you talked about. And so they mobilised their fact checking network for in different countries, and they found how this conspiracy circulates in many languages. So they found traces of it in Spain in the Baltic states, Scandinavia, and Greece and France and so on many others. So it was adapted and localised by local disinformation actors. Okay. Then I've also been checking some Twitter hashtags that Twitter was, strangely enough, pushing on to my feed. And I found some interesting overlaps of climate, climate change denialism and anti vaccination conspiracies. So really elaborately drawn images of this kind of dystopia where children are being pulled away by police, with syringes and, and things like that. So, again, we're seeing another iteration of overlaps between these two movements. But that's, that's just a Twitter trend.
Eva Schaper 12:43
actually want to know, is this hashtag that's been been in use for a long time? Or is it just trending now? So is it a hashtag that's trending? Or is it just something that's somehow moved to the forefront?
Daiva Repeckaite 12:57
It's been around, but it's coming back sometimes and then staying quiet for a bit, but it seems to be the hashtag that yeah, that this kind of conspiracists are engaging, every time there's something that can further their views. So every time there's a new policy or they want to react to something, or for example, the leaders are discussing new climate policies. This is when they pull out the hashtag.
Eva Schaper 13:28
Okay. Okay. And is there anything else that you thought was interesting?
Daiva Repeckaite 13:33
So, nature recently published a paper based on a study on about vaccine hesitancy in 23 countries, those countries are sampled from different continents, and the survey was carried out last year and now the results have been processed and here they are. So they looked into COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy or acceptance, so they kind of, of all the survey responses, they created a sort of binary whether people are hesitant or accepting and taking up the vaccination. They separately asked about boosters, and they separately asked about children's vaccination. So what they found was that in eight of these 23 countries, so in 1/3 of this country's hesitancy has increased. And a very interesting population is, is the is vaccinated individuals who are hesitant about booster doses. And that's one in eight. One in eight survey participants. They say that almost two and five respondents paid less attention to new information about COVID-19
Eva Schaper 14:55
Did they give him a reason did they say why were people more hesitant about child vaccinations or booster doses?
Daiva Repeckaite 15:04
So they give similar reasons to the ones that the articles you brought in today have cited so distrust in government is a big one. If people don't trust their government and their health authorities, then they're quite likely to refuse vaccination. But also there is the perception that the new variants are less severe, and that the new treatments can actually deal with a disease without the need of vaccination. So when this theory or this statement takes hold, populations that are less likely to take the take the vaccines when offered. And what I also found interesting is that when we looked at the countries that we have covered before, over a third of the respondents, they surveyed and Poland, were hesitant, so vaccine hesitant. So that's a large number for a European country. And also close to a third of vaccinated German parents are hesitant to get vaccines for their children.
Eva Schaper 16:23
Yeah, there's a lot of uncertainty in Germany about children's vaccinations in part because the head German vaccination officials said on TV that without any, without a scientific reason said he would not have his own child vaccinated. It was very unhelpful, and it was very confusing for a lot of people because I think a week or two after that, the new guidelines were to vaccinate children. So that was not I think that left a lot of people with confused as to vaccinating children. And I think what's also true, we've talked about this, a lot of parents in Germany who themselves are vaccinated, refuse vaccination for childhood diseases, such as measles, so that that just might be very Germany specific.
Daiva Repeckaite 17:23
Yeah, and it's definitely deserves further unpacking. And then maybe to end on her slightly funny, but it's not funny at all for the businesses affected, note. So, in Lithuania, there is a new conspiracy in town. And it relates to insects in food. So it's not about those situations where an insect accidentally ends up in, in your flower, and then it's baked into bread. But actually, the conspiracy says that, now that certain insect products are allowed to be used in food in the EU, if they are clearly labelled conspiracy theorists took it all the way to claim that actually, they are already being used and they are not being labelled and our bread and cheese and whatnot is full of cricket flour. To make it more interesting, they said that, oh, actually, our food is not only full of insect flour, but it's also full of heavy metals.
Eva Schaper 18:35
Okay, so this is definitely a different direction. What I think is interesting here and maybe we do look at that in another episode is that fear of insects and insect infestation is something that comes that is recurring, in right wing conspiracy theories and also ivermectin, which some people, completely wrongly claim is against COVID, is in fact, used in horses against little insects called mites. So, I think that's the I wonder if that's a coincidence, or if this is truly part of, you know, a bigger school of conspiracy thought.
Daiva Repeckaite 19:25
Oh wow! This is actually really fascinating. And I never made this connection. I've never seen this particular connection made but the experts interviewed by the Lithuanian public radio LRT actually said that healthy living communities are prone to believing in conspiracies because they are very concerned about eating clean and purity in all senses of the word. So people who are all about eating clean and living clean, fearful of being tainted, you sort of you found the critical thing juncture here that the fear of insect contamination the fear of heavy metal contamination goes hand in hand in those groups,
Eva Schaper 20:10
yes and also this idea of purity as such is something that we also repeatedly have come across.
Daiva Repeckaite 20:17
Okay, so, this is what we wanted to explore in the news today. And we will go back to the question of artificial intelligence and the question of purity.
Eva Schaper 20:29
So, we look forward to next episode, which is going to be in two weeks. Thank you so much. Bye
Transcribed by https://otter.ai