Using Wikipedia to Automatically Fact-Check the Internet
Some day fact-checking will be as easy as using spell-check.
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker
Wikipedia is wonderful resource. I use it almost everyday for work and for pleasure — it's an easy way to find sources for articles or look up scientific terms. The truth is, in this fast-paced industry, traditional fact-checking cannot keep up with the volume and diversity of topics in which journalists and bloggers are expected to write. But even with editors to fact-check my work, it's easy for misinformation to run rampant online.
Wikipedia seems to be a large exception to this rule. Harvard University's Jonathan Zittrain thinks the site is a remarkable and unique model of a self-regulating entity. But what's most astounding about this community is its governors and stakeholders are both members of the public at large.
Still, the rest of the Internet is a dangerous source — ungoverned and unchecked. Though, Google is trying to fix that. It would be nice if checking facts were as easy as checking spelling in Word docs. Fortunately, computer scientists are on it.
Lead author of a study, Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, said in a press release:
“We live in an age of information overload, including abundant misinformation, unsubstantiated rumors, and conspiracy theories whose volume threatens to overwhelm journalists and the public.”
So, researchers from Indiana University managed to devise a system that assigns "truth scores" to topics ranging from history to entertainment, all drawn from Wikipedia.
"Our experiments point to methods to abstract the vital and complex human task of fact-checking into a network-analysis problem, which is easy to solve computationally."
The researchers used the infoboxes on the site to create a "knowledge graph" that would create links between various concepts, such as "Socrates is a person" or "Paris is the capital of France."
"The measurement of the truthfulness of statements appears to rely strongly on indirect connections, or 'paths,' between concepts. If we prevented our fact-checker from traversing multiple nodes on the graph, it performed poorly since it could not discover relevant indirect connections. But because it's free to explore beyond the information provided in one infobox, our method leverages the power of the full knowledge graph."
The group realizes Wikipedia is not 100 percent perfect, and plans on using other sources of knowledge to expand on the nodes their program can hit, with sources such as Freebase. However, they do believe it's important now more than ever that computational fact-checkers could help in solving some of the problems with misinformation when it comes to important issues, such as climate change and vaccines.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales explains how a dedicated community of users keeps the site accurate and honest. Despite the potential for abuse in inherent in a publicly edited encyclopedia, Wales tries to avoid designing against the wrong that people might do.
Read about the entire study at PLOS One.
Photo Credit: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.
- How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
- To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
- The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.