5 new automated fact-checking projects underway

December 22, 2016

By Jessica Davies

The spread of fake news online has come to light as a serious problem in the aftermath of the U.S. election. And while fact checking has been integral to quality newsrooms since, well, forever, automated fact checking hasn’t. Today, the sheer volume of sources from which information is spread makes verification a strain on newsroom resources. That’s why there are a myriad of projects underway aimed at automating the process.

Time is of the essence, with a raft of national elections set across Europe in 2017. Here’s a look at five automated fact-checking projects:

News feed demotions
Naturally, Facebook is cooking up new ways to automate fact checking, having drawn a lot of heat for its role in the spread of political misinformation around the American election. The social network is releasing tools aimed at snuffing out false posts and has brought in third parties to investigate and flag reported stories. The social platform has enlisted the help of fact checkers at media outlets ABC News and the Associated Press, along with FactCheck.org, Snopes and Politifact, all of which will use a tool created by Facebook to help evaluate the truthfulness of stories that have been flagged as fake. Once a story has been verified to be false, it will be demoted in the news feed.

New tools for roaming journalists
Full Fact, a British charity, has raised €50,000 ($52,000) from Google’s Digital News Initiative to invest in new methods of automating fact checking, whether it be tools for newsrooms or mobile apps journalists can use when note-taking at events. The charity has provided fact-checking resources to newsrooms for several years, but its mission is now to scale what it can do using statistical analysis and natural language processing tools already available.

“There’s still a lot of misinformation floating around parliament,” said Full Fact digital products manager Mevan Babakar. A lot of unverified statistics are often touted, and then parroted everywhere. “A few years ago, a headline in The Sun said 40 percent of knife crime was committed by 15-17-year-olds. That story went on to be debated in Parliament, and later a law was changed. When we looked into it, we found it was one police officer perpetrating it. There are countless more examples,” said Babakar. To stop misinformation like this escalating, Full Fact is using its Google funding to develop automated checking tools, which it hopes to roll out by December 2017.

One of the products being looked at by Full Fact is a mobile app, which journalists can use when covering live press events. The concept is that a journalist can record a speaker’s session, and while listening can scroll down and watch the words appear on screen. As soon as someone makes a claim or waves a statistic around, the journalist can highlight it in red, and it can be verified. “That could also give you a great follow-up question if it showed it not to be true,” added Babakar. This particular concept is just at the idea phase for now. “We’ll see how far the …read more

Source:: Digiday


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