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Jordan Reid

Author; Founding Editor, Ramshackle Glam

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Fake CGI Super Bowl a reminder of the disinformation crisis

Feb 15

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The disinformation crisis is entering a new age, as digital and AI technologies advance at a faster pace than government regulations or societal norms can keep up with. In this environment, lies can spread faster than truth, and audiences can’t agree on facts.

Straight Arrow News contributor Jordan Reid experienced this in her own life recently while she was watching what she believed to be the Super Bowl, prompting her to reflect on how AI and CGI are impacting how we trust our sources. Reid also worries that this growing disinformation crisis is feeding more and more into the U.S. partisan divide.

We were watching [the Super Bowl] for maybe 10 minutes when my 12-year-old came in the room and said, “Why are you watching an animated football game?”

What we had been watching wasn’t real. It was a CGI version of the Super Bowl, and I guess because our eyes are too old, or maybe because we weren’t really paying attention, we had no idea. We had to stand up, walk over to the TV, and really scrutinize it to find the tell-tale pixelation, and even so, it took us a minute to be certain. 

That is wild to me. 

By now, we’re all well aware of the prevalence of deepfakes, of the dangers of misinformation, of the erosion of the public trust in the images that we see with our own eyes. Watching 10 minutes of a fake Super Bowl is one thing, but watching, say, an Instagram video about the Israeli-Hamas war and finding out it’s actually a clip from a completely different conflict in a completely different year and a completely different country — or just full-stop CGI — that is another issue.

How do we know what to believe, when our own eyes can betray us so easily? 

It’s these kinds of anxieties, I think, that are cementing the political tribalism that’s characterized the last several years, to our country’s tremendous detriment. It’s easier to just fall along party lines — just parrot what you hear in your own information bubble — than it is to try to parse truth from lies.

A very strange thing happened to me on Sunday. My mother came over, and since I only have Apple TV we went on YouTube to figure out how to watch the Super Bowl live and airplay-ed it from my phone onto the tv – technology is not my forte – and…we were watching it for maybe ten minutes when my twelve-year-old came in the room and said “Why are you watching an animated football game?”

 

What we had been watching wasn’t real. It was a CGI version of the Super Bowl, and I guess because our eyes are old or perhaps because we weren’t really paying super-close attention…we had no idea. We had to stand up, walk over to the tv, and really scrutinize it to find the tell-tale pixelation, and even so…it took us a minute to be certain.

 

That is wild to me.

 

By now, we’re all well-aware of the prevalence of deepfakes, of the dangers of misinformation, of the erosion of the public trust in the images that we see with their own eyes. Watching ten minutes of a fake Super Bowl is one thing, but watching, say, an Instagram video about the Israeli-Hamas war and finding out it’s actually a clip from a completely different conflict in a completely different year and a completely different country – or just full-stop CGI – is another.

 

How do we know what to believe, when our own eyes can betray us so easily?

 

It’s these kinds of anxieties, I think, that are cementing the political tribalism that’s characterized the last several years, to our country’s tremendous detriment. It’s easier to fall along party lines – just parrot what you hear in your own information bubble – than it is to try to parse truth from lies.

 

As an example, when we’re faced with a massively complex and incredibly upsetting situation like what happened in Israel on October 7, and what’s happening in Gaza right now, every minute of every day…we tend to go to our regular news sources, whatever they may be, and trust that they’re telling us the truth. The whole truth.

 

Last night, I read an article about the triumphant rescue of two Israeli hostages from Hamas. And then I went on Instagram and the first post I saw was a thankfully blurred-out video of a Palestinian girl who was hanging from a destroyed building, her legs essentially gone. It was so terrifying that I couldn’t believe it was real – not because I don’t think horrors are happening in Gaza, but because my heart couldn’t bear it.

 

I did some research. It was.

 

I wish it was as simple as “check your source material.” That’s what I tell my kids whenever they’re doing a school assignment and have to go online to do research: Make sure you’re getting your information from a reliable source.

How do you know what to feel, what to believe, when the bombardment of information is so constant, and our awareness of the prevalence of misinformation grows by the day?

 

But when we don’t have total confidence that any of our sources are reliable – when cartoon football players on your tv seem as real as the actual men on the actual field in the actual Las Vegas – it becomes very hard to trust…well…anyone.

 

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