Seven Shades of Fake News and AI to the Aid

Listing out the three biggest threats to the online world, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, put fake news on the top. His recent comments on the W3F blog to mark the 28th anniversary of what is now known as the Internet, could not have come at a more appropriate time for the traditional press, which apart from battling an onslaught from digital media, is also facing flak for fake news, perhaps a tad unfairly.

Fake news is not necessarily a new phenomenon. Its precursor is definitely what many of us know as yellow journalism. But fake news as we know it today, to say the least, is mostly a digital phenomenon and immensely secular. For instance even a bunch of teenagers from the small Macedonian town of Veles, are credited with changing the very course of American history by abetting the election of Donald Trump as its President for nothing more than just making a few more Google Ad Sense dollars.

This throws up several interesting dimensions and perhaps even a case for harking back to the good old journalistic values and tenets, as against the easy and lazy information gathering avenues that the digital world throws up. Anders Hofseth, a journalist and strategic analyst at The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), provides a good refresher for journalists to guard against fake news in this post reproduced by the Reuters Institute of Journalism. These rules are eminently implementable in both the traditional newsroom as well as the online space.

However, in a digital world that is driven by clickbait and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and where every user of the Internet is a “citizen journalist”, traditional journalistic practices are barely enough. That is because one also needs to understand the gray areas of the phenomenon itself.

In this post Clare Wardle, head of strategy and research at digital trust and truth advocacy group, First Draft, gives a fairly elaborate breakup of different shares of fake news in the “misinformation ecosystem.” All seven types of fake news can apply to both media, albeit to different degrees based on ease of deception and misinformation, intended or otherwise.

While digital and social media cannot be wished away, and even as it has clearly realized this and is taking steps so as not to be left behind, traditional media should perhaps look at fake news as an opportunity to reclaim turf and address core issues confronting the industry today in context.

The newsroom is certainly the first place to start using elements of Hofseth’s checklist, or anything similar that is suited to each, however, the more critical question is how to safeguard against fake news in the deluge of digital information that comes pouring in almost real time? Clearly this is a humanly overwhelming task and very resource intensive to address.

Enter artificial intelligence and machine learning. News and information feeds curated by AI are no longer a novelty.

Veooz Labs Pvt. Ltd. is one such digital platform company and perhaps the only one in India to have developed and deployed very advanced AI and machine learning news algorithms to protect readers from fake news and sift real news from social media cacophony. With its ability to mine big data and analyze disparate sources (over 40,000) at any given time, Veooz, (Pronounced Views), serves only stories generated by authoritative sources on its news App. It also puts a story in perspective and offers the reader the opportunity for a 360 view of the topic.

Traditional news desks can very well start utilizing such technology, particularly in India, not only to consolidate and curate content but also to validate their own journalistic output which, given the realities explained above, can be prone to being misled. Many news aggregators just like Veooz, including Apple News and Snap, have started implementing the hybrid model even though it may still be some time away before it can be authoritatively said the problem has been addressed.

The writer is Editor at Veooz Labs which manages the Veooz news platform.