Fake News refers to false information that is deliberately circulated to change people’s views, push political agenda, cause confusion, cover up other significant issues or create a new false image. Fake News has recently been spoken about extensively; however, it has been around since the time the Free Press was born.
Ironically, the lack of censorship gave rise to the increase in the circulation of sensational information, most of which was generated to sell and profit the publisher, often without fact- checking or as a deliberate circulation of misinformation.
Fake News holds significant power on the minds of people since it influences opinions and often helps change outcomes in events of consequence such as during elections, governance for generating ad revenue, or to discredit a public figure, political movement or company.
The term ‘Fake News’ has suddenly become a part of our daily vocabulary after the 2016 US presidential elections and other significant international events of consequence.
The Implications of Fake News
The Implications of Fake News range wide from ridiculous to downright fatal depending on the nature of information disseminated and the people it is being circulated for. Some of these have been:
- In October 2017, Melania Trump has a body doublewho attends ‘Presidential Events’ on her behalf
- In November 2016, an LA based website reported that Hillary Clinton had received 25 million fraudulent votes in the popular vote against Donald Trump saying NPR had conducted the study when NPR denied ever havind undertaken a study as such.
- In June 2018, the notorious ‘Whatsapp Lynchings’ that happened in Tamilnadu, India.
- In December 2016, Edgar Welch read online that Comet Ping Pong in Washington D.C. was harboring young children as part of a child abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton. Welch visited Comet Ping Pong to unleash an AR-15 rifle on the workers there. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and he was arrested.
Due to such detrimental implications of sharing Fake News, it is important to validate firsthand whether the news is actually ‘Fake’ or is being called so because someone doesn’t agree with it. When a journalist makes a mistake and if the error is soon corrected by the publication with a note, it does not count as Fake News.
How To Spot Fake News?
Harvard has laid out guidelines which will help spot a fake news story. According to the guidelines:
- It is important to verify the publisher’s credibility first
- Check sources and citations
- Check the quality of writing, if it is poor, it’s likely to be fake.
- Dramatic punctuation or all caps indicate that reputable outlet hasn’t approved it
The rate at which content gets circulated on the Social Media is faster than lightning. In addition, it has been deeply integrated into our daily lives thanks to smartphones. Social networks currently enable the widespread dissemination of fake information.
An MIT research concluded that false stories on Twitter have 70% more chances of getting retweeted than actual news. Real information on the other hand reaches 6 times slower. In addition, these figures do not depend on the number of bots in social networks. The researchers obtained the same results from the same dataset after removing bots. The spread of misleading and false news happens due to people even if they realize it is false.
In fact, according to Statista, 52% of Americans believe that online media publish fake news regularly.
Millions of fresh articles are written and consumed on Social Media daily. This makes it impossible to filter all fake content. That’s why relying on human fact-checkers like what Facebook has been recently trying to do is not a viable option. Social networks and search engines are now actively trying to combat the menace of ‘Fake News’ as recently tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter with a few others have signed a ‘code of conduct’ claiming they will counter the spread of ‘misinformation’. The main aim is to identify and eliminate bots and fake accounts and simplify access to authoritative content.
Google APAC CMO Simon Kahn in his talk at the British chamber of commerce said:
“The issue that everyone in the industry is very focused on is how to curb it while still allowing people to have open information and networks. … One way of tackling it is looking at sites that are purveyors of fake news and basically stopping advertising — cutting off oxygen so that they aren’t making money off it.”
How often media publish fake news? (US, 2018)
Leveraging modern technology to verify the source of the information being disseminated will help curtail the propagation of such misinformation even if it is being published on a mass scale to push an agenda.
Two recently published research papers suggest great insights on combating ‘Fake News.’ In Hierarchical Propagation Networks for Fake News Detection researchers have understood how Fake News gets organically distributed through our networks vs. how real news gets distributed. Another paper Using Blockchain to Rein in The New Post-Truth World and Check The Spread of Fake News proposes a blockchain based framework that can prevent the propagation of Fake News.
How Can Blockchain Prevent Fake News?
Blockchain technology can help us verify information from the source itself. The technology that powers cryptocurrencies is a ledger of database distributed across multiple devices. This makes it decentralized, transparent and easier to authenticate a transaction without revealing details of the individual making the transaction to other parties. In addition, it is difficult to make changes in the records as any information about the source is also recorded.
Using Blockchain, it can be seen if a certain source from where the information first spread had earlier been designated as a disseminator of ‘False Information’ or not.
On the other hand, when you combine Blockchain with sophisticated algorithms using Artificial Intelligence, a considerably vast amount of data can be processed within relatively lesser time and with greater accuracy.
Can AI Come To Our Aid?
Many sophisticated AI based algorithms are running in beta mode where they can easily detect made up stories, malware, fake news or other types of undesirable or offensive content.
Or Levi founder of one such algorithm, AdVerif.ai believed that his company saw an opportunity by focusing their end-product for companies instead of focusing on the end-user. Individuals on a day-to-day basis are not usually concerned about the authenticity of each story they come across but advertisers and content platforms will lose credibility and revenue by hosting or advertising bad content. When they make changes to their services they will be effective in cutting off revenue streams for those who use fake news to earn. He feels, “It would be a big step in fighting this type of content.”
It is important to target platforms that earn from this revenue or would lose credibility due to the spread of misinformation on their platforms while designing such solutions.
Both, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technologies can be effectively combined to curtail the dissemination of ‘Fake News’. A recent Gartner study estimates that by 2022, people in advanced economies will consume more fake than real news. AI with sophisticated ways of creating fake content will also be more efficient. That’s why it’s important to have transparency in the way we source, publish and disseminate digital information now before it is too late.
At Cygnet Infotech, we believe in powering businesses and the world with innovative and ethical solutions that keep yielding positive outcomes using the latest in emerging technology. To find out how you can make Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain work for your organization, get in touch with us at +1-609-245-0971 or firstname.lastname@example.org.