Fake news: the battle for the truth

fake news data analysis, AI, and machine learning

Fake news is spreading like an epidemic. This problem may be amusing to social media users but it is taken quite seriously by governments. Many countries are planning to invest in technology solutions that could make serious inroads into solving the problem. Governments are also attempting to pass laws to strangle fake news.

Easy access to online advertisement revenue, increased political polarization, and the popularity of social media, primarily the Facebook News Feed, have all been implicated in the spread of fake news. Fake news also undermines serious media coverage and makes it more difficult for journalists to cover significant news stories.

An analysis by Buzzfeed found that the top 20 fake news stories about the 2016 U.S. presidential election received more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 news stories on the election from 19 major media outlets. Anonymously-hosted fake news websites lacking known publishers have also been credited because they make it difficult to prosecute sources of fake news for libel.

In January of this year, President Donald Trump tweeted a link to his “highly anticipated” fake news award winners.

Simultaneously, French President Emmanuel Macron is preparing to introduce a law against “fake news” in 2018. To be expected, critics are voicing concerns over what they see as a potential infringement on their freedom of expression. Also, Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) has expressed interest in engaging with tech giants Facebook, Google, and Twitter in its efforts to reduce fake news during this year’s presidential elections. With federal elections scheduled for late September in Germany, momentum is building behind using anti-botnet laws against automated social media accounts that distribute misinformation.

It may be that a potential solution to the fake news problem could be through the use of technology. But IT companies are still in search of a solution using data analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. So far, not all of their attempts have been successful.

Facebook has announced plans to remove the red flags on articles that are used to signal they are fake news. Interestingly enough, when people see the red flags on fake news they are more likely to click on them. Instead, Facebook said it will include links to “related” articles under controversial posts that promote other, more trustworthy sources covering the same topic. In 2017, Facebook contracted with a number of fact-checking organizations in an effort to reduce the amount of fake news circulating on its site. As you might guess, the fake news on Facebook has been flagged with red flags.

There are many ideas for solutions. In fact, students developed a plug-in, called “Open Mind,” during a 36-hour hackathon at Yale University. It works by alerting people when they come across fake and biased news stories. The plug-in, which works with Google Chrome, displays a warning whenever a user clicks through to a site that is known for publishing fake news. It also works to find out whether news stories have a specific angle and can recommend stories with different viewpoints.

There are also new platforms like which plans to use the same machine learning technology that is being used to populate Facebook news feeds. Instead, they will leverage this technology to promote high-value content. By using blockchain technology, similar to Bitcoin and sites like Steemit, will create a transparent record for content and moderation. By taking this approach, DeepSee will create a content media aggregation platform that will share true content rather than sharing misinformation.

Additionally, First Line Software and the Innovation Center of Leiden University have jointly developed a fake news detection service named CredibleU.  Following an innovation sprint on fake news held on April 11, 2017, in Washington, DC at the OpenGov Hub, the combined team developed a prototype concept to fight the spread of fake news in the United States. The prototype for CredibleU has already been built and a full version of the system is under development. The service will be available as a free bot for Twitter in 2018.

The future of these types of services holds great promise for solving the fake news dilemma.

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