Fake Fighters Flourish: Faux or No?

April 16, 2018

An article at Buyers Meeting Point draws our attention to a selection of emerging tools meant to stem the tsunami of false information online. In “Will New Startup NewsGuard Address Fake News in Internet Research?” editor Kelly Barner cites an article in the Wall Street Journal by NewsGuard creator L. Gordon Crovitz when she describes:

“The premise of the NewsGuard value proposition is interesting – Crovitz detailed the challenges caused by what has become a ‘news supply chain’. In many cases, we don’t get our news directly from the publisher, like we did in the olden days of newspapers. Instead we get news from another platform that is probably not dedicated to news: Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This obscures our awareness of the actual source and increases the risk of reading and sharing fake news. NewsGuard, set to be released in advance of the Midterm elections this November, will charge platforms – not publishers – to rate the reliability of the news sources running content on their site. ‘Instead of black-box algorithms, NewsGuard will use human beings to rate news brands Green, Yellow or Red depending on whether they are trying to produce real journalism, fail to disclose their interests, or are intentional purveyors of fake news.’ (WSJ, 3/4/2018). The largest investor in NewsGuard is Publicis Groupe, a France-based multi-national advertising and public relations agency. According to the Commentary piece, the ratings will be based on both NewsGuard’s experts and wisdom of the crowd. We are all wise to be concerned about the fake news in our midst. Is this the right solution?”

Good question. There are several competing AI tools designed to root out fake news, and the article lists Factmata, Storyzy, Trive, and Our.News, among others, as examples. (See the piece for more details.) Our primary question, however, remains—do they work?

The post reminds us that nothing can really replace critical thinking skills. As Barner concludes, “readers and researchers bear the ultimate responsibility for the information and sources they cite.” Indeed.

Cynthia Murrell, April 16, 2018

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