Combating Fake News with Open Innovation

Published Feb-20-17

Automated technologies to accurately fact check fake news stories.

HeroX, United States

The Story:

Combating Fake News with Open Innovation In an era of fake news, truth and verifiable facts are taking a back seat. Websites and organizations are deliberately pumping out false stories, hoaxes, lies and misinformation that purports to be real news. They use social media to broaden their reach and the stories are read and passed on by people who often don't realize they’re fake.

Sometimes, there can be consequences in the real world such as when a man opened fire on a pizzeria in Washington because he believed a story that suggested it was the headquarters of a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton. Another prominent fake news story in the run-up to the US presidential election stated that democratic senators wanted to impose sharia law in Florida. The report was repeated by Michael Flynn who subsequently became the Trump administration’s first National Security Advisor, before resigning his post.

Fact Checking Fake News

To counter the rising tide of misinformation, award-winning investigative journalist Diane Francis and crowdsourcing technology provider HeroX launched the Fast and Furious Fact Check Challenge.

This open innovation initiative invited participants to come up with an automated approach to check facts in a fraction of the time it takes humans. While there are some fact checking programs out there, most checking is carried out by qualified humans. It is a meticulous, time-consuming and expensive process, and it is not instant. With the speed with which stories spread around the globe, rapid and immediate fact checking is required.

Additionally, there just aren’t enough researchers around to fact check every fake news story that is published.

Search for Better Automated Fact Checking Technologies

The competition attracted more than 80 registrants from 24 countries and their submissions were whittled down by the judging panel to two finalists. In first place was Ovidiu Dobre from Romania for Fact Scan, an integrated web-based platform for fact checking that uses AI and cloud computing technologies.

Second place was awarded to a team called Claim Buster from the University of Texas at Arlington for a system that collects relevant information from numerous sources and generates justifications to help fact checkers produce a true/false rating for the claim.

"The Fast and Furious competition has forged an exciting new path for much-needed fact checking technology innovation to combat the dramatic increase in fake news flooding the Internet and social media channels," said Diane Francis.

Toward a Breakthrough Solution

Although the finalists of this open innovation contest impressed the judges with their innovations, their submissions fell just short of the threshold of 80% accuracy that organizers believed to be the bare minimum that was necessary. However, according to Francis, the contest produced viable solutions that helped to uncover flaws in current approaches. She recognized that advances had been made and is going to continue sponsoring challenges and working with others until a breakthrough solution is found.
"The world needs automated fact checking, and the world is going to get it."

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