Deepfakes, disinformation and hate crimes: what you need to know

Privacy, law and civil rights expert Danielle Citron discusses cyber abuses and how we can protect ourselves

By Molly Gluck and Sari Cohen

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Photo by Cydney Scott

Online platforms have transformed virtually all aspects of daily life and interaction. However, the same platforms that keep us connected and informed are not immune from misuse: social media networks and digital ecosystems host and spread disinformation, deepfakes, revenge porn, and other forms of online harassment which cause individual and wide-scale harm. Deepfakes and other manipulated media have the power to influence society as a whole — and can especially wreak havoc on our divided political climate leading up to the U.S. presidential election.

Danielle Citron, Boston University School of Law professor and MacArthur Fellow, took to Reddit to discuss cyber abuses — and what we can do to protect ourselves from them.

Here are the top 10 takeaways from the discussion.

1) Deepfakes, defined.

First things first — what are deepfakes? Citron explains below.

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2) Deepfakes have vast implications socially, culturally and politically.

Citron points out how deepfakes can ruin reputations, deepen distrust, and endanger elections.

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3) We need both lawmakers and social media companies to help keep deepfakes and other disinformation from influencing the U.S. elections.

Citron makes the case for human content moderators on social media and carefully drafted laws to protect our elections.

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4) Sexual privacy, defined.

What is sexual privacy? Citron explains what it is and how to maintain it below.

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5) Trust and confidentiality are key to protecting yourself online.

Citron helps us understand how to defend ourselves against cyberspace abuses.

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6) We all have responsibilities as digital citizens.

It is crucial to educate parents, caretakers, teachers, students and kids about their responsibilities in the digital sphere — and hold them accountable.

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7) Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides an overly broad shield for online platform liability.

Citron highlights why Wikipedia sets a model example for platform moderation.

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8) There is a close connection between national security and feminism.

Citron and #NatSecGirlSquad discuss how lies are not new and neither are online attacks targeting women.

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9) People believe fake news because of confirmation bias.

People are attracted to information that aligns with their viewpoints.

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10) Dear law students…

Currently in law school? Take advice from an expert from the field.

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11) Must-listen to podcasts.

Pass the time listening to Citron’s law podcast recommendations!

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For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. Follow Danielle Citron at @daniellecitron and follow the Boston University School of Law at @BU_Law.

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Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert: bu.edu/experts

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