23 July 2019

Research pick: Fixing fake facts - "Towards an automation of the fact-checking in the journalistic web context"

In the era of so-called “Fake News” can good old-fashioned journalistic fact-checking be automated in order to reduce its detrimental impact on society, politics, and civilization in general? Writing in the International Journal of Big Data Intelligence, a team from Senegal, hope to answer that question. It is worth pointing out that propaganda and misinformation have always existed and have been exploited to pursue a political or other agenda since humanity first communicated.

However, the advent of the internet and social media, in particular, meant that misinformation can spread very rapidly and reach far more people across the globe in a matter of seconds. This is very different to the rate of misinformation spread that occurred up to the digital age. Even the invention of the radio, cinema, and television did not have quite the far-reaching impact of the incredibly familiar and ubiquitous information sources hundreds of millions of people rely on every day now – Google, Facebook, and Twitter, for example.

In recent years, politicians, companies, activists, and terrorist groups have exploited this facile means of spreading propaganda, misinformation, and fake news. Now, the pressure must be exerted that we might reduce the deleterious effects it has on society. Edouard Ngor Sarr of the University of Thies and colleagues there and in the Department of Computer Sciences, Supdeco Dakar have reviewed the state-of-the-art in approaches that might help automate fact-checking in data journalism. They conclude that automated methods can be very powerful but there will always remain a need for human intervention to assess the bottom line and decide whether something is fake or fact in the context of the data journalistic web.

Sarr, E.N., Sall, O., Maiga, A. and Diallo, M.S. (2019) ‘Towards an automation of the fact-checking in the journalistic web context‘, Int. J. Big Data Intelligence, Vol. 6, Nos. 3/4, pp.307-321.

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