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Using Wikipedia to Automatically Fact-Check the Internet
Some day fact-checking will be as easy as using spell-check.
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.
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
The future of deepfakes<p>In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.</p><p>But the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=324528215059254" target="_blank">video</a> is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real. </p><p>The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-seeing-still-believing-the-deepfake-challenge-to-truth-in-politics/#cancel" target="_blank">2020 report from The Brookings Institution</a>. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes. </p><p>As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."</p>
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.