‘Fake News’ has become something of a buzz term in recent years and has been attached to a plethora of controversial topics and debates. Today, one of the most controversial topics discussed across the internet is the safety and medical legitimacy of the coronavirus vaccinations. As politicians strive to curtail the circulation of misinformation to maximise vaccine uptakes, the question is raised: how do we accurately and effectively check the information shared on the internet?
How Does It Work?
In 2019, the online fact-checking companies Full Fact, Africa Check and Chequeado received a $2 million grant from Google in order to develop a new Artificial Intelligence tool tasked with combatting the spread of ‘bad’ information on the internet. Full Fact notes that a human’s ability to proof-read and edit content is by far superior to their robotic counterpart’s. That said, whilst humans continue to outperform technology in terms of the quality of their editing, AI ensures that a greater quantity of online content is proof checked. Full Fact continues that the new technology can be used ‘to automatically identify checkable ‘claims’ across online and broadcast media. At the moment, this averages to around 100,000 claims a day – 1,000 times more than what we were able to detect previously.’ As countless posts, comments and claims continue to be circulated around the internet each day, we need a tool that will keep our communities safe from colossal quantities of harmful misinformation. Cong Yu, Team Leader at Google Fact-Checking has noted that 'the technology built by Full Fact, Africa Check, Chequeado and the team of Google.org […] is an example of incredible global collaboration to tackle one of the world’s hardest problems. The fact that the AI model has boosted the number of detected claims by 1000x across 4 languages, and 3 continents is very impressive.'
It’s important to note that content is written in varying forms and therefore needs to be approached and fact checked differently. For example, claims may cite quantities (‘GDP has risen by x%), claim to identify cause and effect (‘this policy leads to y’) or make predictions (‘the economy will grow by z’. As it stands, it’s impossible to fact check all of the claims made online. This is hardly surprising; the workload would be colossal, and claims are made in a variety of ways. Yet, AI is already improving and becoming increasingly able to group topics together and subsequently proof-read them. The system uses language-processing to group multiple claims to one person. Whilst we all understand that ‘Johnson’, ‘the PM’ and ‘BoJo’ all refer to Boris Johnson, it’s difficult to teach technology to automatically group these terms together. That said, as Artificial Intelligence continues to improve, technology’s role in fact-checking online content is likely to drastically increase.