Knowhere: News and Smart Software

May 25, 2018

I find the name interesting. Knowhere. The association with “nowhere” seems probable.

The company may have a terrific idea, but will it work? Motherboard reports, “A Startup Media Site Says AI Can Take Bias Out of News.” The site, Knowhere, uses AI technology in its attempt to achieve an impartial balance. Reporter Mack De Geurin writes:

“The site works by searching the internet for popular news stories. The algorithm sorts through newly published articles in near real time to determine what stories are being covered most by news sites. Knowhere then aggregates stories from a continually expanding inventory of more than a thousand different sources with varying political persuasions to create a ‘knowledge graph’ or database of each news story. Of course, all artificial intelligences for the moment have to have some human input: The co-founders weighed each source for trustworthiness, so a publication with a longstanding history of accuracy like the New York Times is weighted differently than a less reputable site like Breitbart. From there, three versions of any article are published: left, impartial, and right. These distinctions are meant to show the reader how word selection and emphasis can produce biased reporting.”

Those three distinctions, left, impartial, and right, are meant to be temporary—the site hopes to eventually share only content that it has rendered impartial. At this point, human judgment is still integral to the process. The company’s Barling states that at least two real, live editors review each story for errors, style, and, crucially, bias. In the end, cofounder Nathaniel Barling emphasizes, each story receives his approval before being posted. He also notes that no story will be published until it has been reported by at least five verified sources.

The article mentions a few previous efforts to leverage AI in the newsroom by assorted news sources, but most of them were aimed at reducing busywork. (A worthy goal, to be sure.) Knowhere, we’re told, is different not only for its focus on unbiased reporting, but also for its use of natural language processing. Some are skeptical, though, that a site which simply restructures the reporting of others is really adding anything of value. For Barling, though, Knowhere is a tool is with which to present the news more clearly, more truthfully. We’ll see.

Cynthia Murrell, May 25, 2018

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