THE new software to be used in detecting fake news will be tested first in Africa and rest of the world coming this October, Researchers at the United Kingdom based Full fact Organisation has said.
According to the firm, the software scans statements as they are made by politicians and instantly provides a verdict on their veracity.
Early version relies on a database of several thousand manual fact-checks, but later versions will automatically access official data to inform the verdict. The researchers are co-operating with the Office of National Statistics on the project.
“ It is anticipated that the program will be first tested in the United Kingdom but also be deployed in South America and Africa, where Kenya’s presidential election campaign has been beset by fake news such as bogus BBC and CNN news reports using fabricated polls to overstate the prospects of President Uhuru Kenyatta”, the Guardian Online has said.
In London, Full Fact is working with Chequeado, an Argentina-based fact-checking organisation, and Africa Check, which operates in several sub-Saharan countries, including Nigeria and South Africa.
“It is like trying to build an immune system,” says Mevan Babakar, project manager at Full Fact in London. “As more information goes out into the world that is wrong, what we don’t have is the means of pushing back against that.”
Babakar say early version of the software scans the subtitles of live news programmes, broadcasts of parliament, the Hansard parliamentary record, and articles published by newspapers. It tracks millions of words sentence by sentence until it identifies a claim that appears to match a fact-check already in its database.
It is was claimed that 10,000 more NHS nursing training places had been made available is also flagged: “Incorrect. This figure refers to the government’s ambition for additional places by 2020 on nursing, midwifery and child health courses”.
The program will be expanded so that it carries out its own fact-checks by using databases of statistics and verified information. Work is also under way to give Twitter and Facebook users the chance to fact-check their social media feeds, where the large majority of the worst fake news has been distributed.
“This is an important investment in the future of fact-checking,” says Stephen King, the Omidyar Network’s global lead on governance and citizen engagement. “These tools will expand the reach and impact of fact-checkers around the world, ensuring citizens are properly informed and those in positions of power are held accountable.
However, the Project Manager is keen to stress the limitations of the system so far and believes the tool should only be used by journalists in the first instance rather than the general public.
“If we go straight to the public it will pit us against people wanting quick answers who won’t be satisfied because we can’t always make the answers small,” she said. “It is to help the journalist better push back, for example by challenging politicians at a press conference rather than going back to their desk and researching the claims.