How Twitter Will Kill Fake News
In recent years social media has seen the rise of one of its biggest hurdles yet. The cancerous growth of fake news. Fake news is the spreading of lies and misinformation, usually with some motive (eg.political). Irish poet ,Jonathan Swift, summed up this phenomenon simply :
In 2018 Science published a study on fake news in which it states: A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. The largest examples of fake news usually arise during large political tension, for example in the Trump campaign in February 2016, a rumour arose about the death of one of Trump’s cousins and that he had left a message in his obituary regarding Trump's run for presidency, stating : “As a proud bearer of the Trump name, I implore you all, please don’t let that walking mucus bag become president''.This rumour was found to be fake but not before the story had spread to all corners of social media. Comparing this to a true story a year earlier a rumour circulated on social media that Mr Trump had let an ill child use his plane to get urgent medical attention. The rumour was confirmed true however only about 1,300 people shared or retweeted the story.
As mentioned previously fake stories usually are at their highest concentration during political turmoil where chances of belief through confirmation bias are at their highest.Below is a look at the spread of fake election stories emphasising how easy it is to misinform the public through social media during these periods.
Twitter has recently decided to tackle this problem head on.Their strategy to achieve the impossible?AI. Twitter's most recent acquisition is an AI UK based company “Fabula”.
Fake news is a problem unlike any other social media has faced before.The main challenge is in detection.How can automated systems distinguish between fake and real articles. Fabulas solution to this problem is the ability to analyse complex data sets for signs of network manipulation and can identify patterns that other machine-learning techniques can’t, according to Twitter Chief technology officer,Parag Agrawal.
Instead of the traditional black/white manual flagging approach, Fabula has looked at the problem from a different perspective with a truth-risk score to identify misinformation.All potential fake articles are run through fact-checking sources like PolitiFact and Snopes, from which the score is produced.
With the US elections around the corner this movement towards eliminating fake news is a welcome one.After the number of incidents involving Russia spreading misinformation with political objectives in the last run for US presidency, users of Twitter can feel safer in knowing the data they see online accurately reflects the real world.
Although trust in social media has slowly been declining as shown below pushes towards more current and plentiful data may lead to an inversion in this trend, however this requires more than one acquisition or one new department.This requires one large shift in policy and strategy from the largest social media players in order to make the internet a better place for everyone.