Aug 20, 2020

California Magazine Interviews Dr. Farid on Misinformation and Fake News

From California Magazine

In the Age of Information, Can We Weed Out the Fake News?

By Apoorfa Tadepalli

In mid-April, the United Nations Secretary-General formally identified a parallel “pandemic” to COVID-19: a “misinfo-demic” or false news about the virus. Conspiracy theories, dangerous fake health advice, and discrimination and stigma related to the virus—from its origin to how it can be prevented or cured—have all spread like wildfire. The World Health Organization even added a “mythbusters” section to its website...

For months, resident deepfake expert and professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, Dr. Hany Farid, had been analyzing pictures, videos, and text to understand the spread of misinformation as it pertained to the 2020 election. Now, with pandemic news dominating the media, he’s leading a new survey to assess the COVID-related mis- and disinformation, in order to advise digital platforms on how to stem this flood. With the survey ongoing and the results yet to be published, Farid spoke to California about what he’s seen so far, the stakes of the issue, and how he thinks social media needs to move forward.

Can you start by describing the project and how you gather the information?

Hany Farid: What we wanted to understand was, what was the penetration of this misinformation—that is, how many people are seeing this misinformation, and then, are people believing it? You can imagine several scenarios: One is it’s out there, but most people aren’t seeing it because they’re focused on other things. Or, people are seeing it, but no one really believes it. Or, they are both seeing it and believing it, and that would be a serious problem... 


Dr. Hany Farid is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, with a joint appointment in electrical engineering and computer sciences and the School of Information.

Last updated:

August 21, 2020