An ‘in­tel­li­gent’ news plat­form devel­oped to fight fake news

Gulf Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Joseph Vargh­ese Staff Re­porter

Qatar Com­put­ing Re­search In­sti­tute ( QCRI), part of Ha­mad Bin Khal­ifa Uni­ver­sity, has devel­oped a news ag­gre­ga­tor plat­form, Tan­bih, “to un­cover fake news at its very ori­gin”.

“Tan­bih, an Ara­bic term mean­ing ‘alert,’ is an in­tel­li­gent plat­form to un­der­stand me­dia bi­ases,” prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist Preslav Nakov told Gulf Times.

The plat­form, mak­ing use of Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence, un­der­stands whether it is emo­tional ma­nip­u­la­tion or ap­peal to author­ity.

“It can de­tect and un­der­stand the un­der­ly­ing rea­sons for the spread of fake news,” he said.

QCRI’s Ara­bic Lan­guage Tech­nolo­gies and So­cial Com­put­ing groups have been work­ing with Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT) Com­puter Sci­ence and Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence Lab­o­ra­tory to de­velop Tan­bih.

“The tech­nol­ogy uses ar­ti­fi­cial neu­ral-net­works to rep­re­sent text in a multi-di­men­sional space. Through a com­plex series of com­pu­ta­tions, it is able to iden­tify dis­in­for­ma­tive con­tent and pin­point its bias.

“The plat­form is unique on sev­eral fronts: it puts tech­nol­ogy in an ac­tual prod­uct that users can eas­ily op­er­ate, but it is also built to be re­gion-spe­cific, so it pays con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion to what is needed in this part of the world and it of­fers ways to ad­dress those needs,” ex­plained Nakov.

The prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist said fake news makes peo­ple be­lieve in wrong in­for­ma­tion very fast. “The spread of fake news has be­come the most so­phis­ti­cated po­lit­i­cal weapon in the re­cent years. It all be­came so prom­i­nent in 2015-16, es­pe­cially dur­ing the US elec­tions. The rise of tech­nol­ogy has made the spread of dis­in­for­ma­tion very fast and the im­pli­ca­tions can be dread­ful and dev­as­tat­ing. It could lead to sev­eral im­pli­ca­tions such as per­son­alised at­tacks, mass mo­bil­i­sa­tions and grave health con­se­quences among oth­ers,” he con­tin­ued.

How­ever, Nakov pointed out that the need of the hour is more me­dia lit­er­acy and crit­i­cal think­ing. Peo­ple have to be ex­tra vig­i­lant and an­a­lyse any news item from dif­fer­ent an­gles to make sure that it is gen­uine or fake be­fore it is shared.

“A re­cent re­port says that Fin­land is win­ning the war on fake news. They have in­vested in ed­u­ca­tion against fake news and pro­vided the right tools from pri­mary schools to high schools and uni­ver­si­ties. They have also ad­ver­tise­ment cam­paigns to pro­vide me­dia lit­er­acy and crit­i­cal think­ing. This is the right ap­proach to fight fake news,” he pointed out.

Nakov said that the Tan­bih is able to un­der­stand pre-iden­ti­fied and highly pre­dictable pro­pa­gan­dist tech­niques.

“As a news ag­gre­ga­tor, Tan­bih re­lies on a so­phis­ti­cated series of data-run an­a­lyt­ics to cre­ate me­dia pro­files. It at­tempts to un­cover im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion on me­dia stance, cen­tral­ity, hy­per-par­ti­san­ship, and in­cli­na­tions when it comes to pop­u­lar top­ics. One ad­van­tage of this tech­nol­ogy is its ca­pa­bil­ity to an­a­lyse Ara­bic me­dia con­tent,” Nakov said.

The sci­en­tist pointed out that sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions are at the fore­front to fight fake news.

“Many so­cial me­dia plat­forms now in­te­grate smart so­lu­tions that po­si­tion fake news at the very bot­tom of the news feeds. They do not an­nounce about these ef­forts in a big way as they are not the gen­eral reg­u­la­tory bod­ies. How­ever, these ef­forts will go a long way to fight dis­in­for­ma­tion,” he added.

Preslav Nakov

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