Live at NAB Show: M&E Defenses Against Social Media Manipulation Discussed at Cyber Summit

LAS VEGAS — Part of what makes humans tick is the belief in social consensus. If everyone’s saying it’s true, then we’re conditioned to believe it’s true. And according to researcher and commentator Jonathon Morgan, CEO and founder of New Knowledge, social consensus — via social media sites — is being manipulated like never before.

“If I can control 10,000 social media accounts, have them all say the same thing, you’ll believe that those 10,000 people all believe the same thing,” he said April 8, speaking during a keynote presentation at the Cyber Security & Content Protection Summit, at the NAB Show.

There are an estimated 60 million fake Facebook accounts, nearly 50 million fake Twitter accounts, and those are conservative estimates, according to Morgan. That’s a lot of potential for coordinated manipulation, and cyber-disinformation threats aren’t just political, with media and entertainment a prime target, he added.

When the remake of “Ghostbusters” was coming out, approximately 15,000 fake social media accounts were put together to do nothing but attack the film. Constantly, on ratings sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, the user ratings for certain films are tanked on purpose (with critic scores much higher than user scores), Morgan said. And this can cost a film millions during its release.

But there are things content companies can do: when a coordinated attack is discovered, get in front of the narrative, work with the press to get stories written about it, and, especially, work with social media sites to confront the problem, Morgan said.

“This is activity the platforms don’t want, and they are ready to take action,” he said. “Now that they’re getting hauled in front of Congress, they’re interested in having conversations.”

The half-day, inaugural Cyber Security & Content Protection Summit provided technology and business updates on cybersecurity and anti-piracy initiatives in both film and television. It was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA), in cooperation with the NAB.

Microsoft Azure, Dolby, NAGRA, the Digital Watermarking Alliance and Convergent Risk sponsored the event.