Using AI to spot fake news

Post-truth was arguably the saying of 2016, with political campaigns throughout the world awash with it.  The spread of misinformation led to a number of platforms that aim to help us spot the truth from the lies, but the volume of bogus information makes it hard to keep on top of things.

A Stanford student has developed an AI based app that aims to detect fake news.  You can download it from the website, or alternatively as a Chrome plugin, and aims to help us understand the credibility of the things we read.

“The project is an AI that aims to detect fake news by analyzing a website’s content, writing style, layout, domain name TLD, use of keywords, popularity, and a bunch of other factors,” the developers say.

Spotting fake news

The app uses over 50 different metrics to come to a conclusion on the accuracy of any piece of content, with a neural network used to crunch the numbers collected for each page.  There is a benchmark by which all content is assessed, with a score higher than the benchmark triggering a fake alert.

“I came up with this after I encountered fake news sites on my own news feed,” the developer continues. “I realized these sites are often fairly easy to tell apart from real sites: They often run on WordPress blogs, they are unpopular relative to established news sites, they display unlikely headlines like ‘Liberals’ Heads EXPLODED When They Heard This.’ It wasn’t hard to guess whether most of these sites were fake or not because I was combining a bunch of factors correlated with reliability in my head to produce a guess.”

Of course, the value of such an app rests not only on the accuracy of it, but also the willingness of people to use it.  There have been a number of fact checking websites emerge over the past few years, and yet politicians still seem to be thriving despite telling large quantities of lies.

I suspect that will be a similar problem with this app, in that those who are more likely to use such an app are probably those already reading respectable sources, whilst those who frequent fake news sites probably see no reason to use an app to dispel their beliefs.

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