Traditional media is in trouble. They are no longer the only source of news and information. Internet and social media have become the main platform for news sharing. Pew Research Center Reports indicate that 62 percent of Americans get their news from social media.
The rise of social media also means that anyone and everyone can create and share news stories, whether they are true or not. Consumers are bombarded with a wealth of stories with no disclosure of whether the content is real.
Emotions trump Facts
On social media, it’s emotion that counts — not facts. As Sam Lessin, former vice president of product management at Facebook, told Wired , “You need to be radical in order to gain market share. Reasonableness gets you no points.” Enter fake news. To truly engage the emotions of their readership, news publishers have resorted to publishing a distorted truth in order to maintain traction in the news market. Nowadays, news has to be shareable, and the more radical the news, the more shareable it is on social media.
No punishment for fake news
The cost of publishing fake news is close to zero, and therefore the incentive to maintain a reputation as a trustworthy news distributor becomes less and less. Google is combating fake news by introducing a Fact-Check Feature on both the news.google.com website and in the Google News and Weather applications on our phones and tablets. As reported by Android Headlines, there are currently more than a hundred active fact-checking websites, citing the Duke University Reporter’s Lab as a source. However, as they point out, due to the low cost of sharing information, far more operators are involved in spreading news, making it nearly impossible to check and regulate all false news sources.
Algorithms to validate news
However, we are no longer living in an era where humans need to do all the work. The West Virginia University is making rapid strides in developing artificial intelligence systems to detect whether news is fake. Stephan Woerner, one of the computer science students, states, “Artificial intelligence (AI) can have all the same information as people, but it can address the volume of news and decipher validity without getting tired. People tend to get political or emotional, but AI does not. It just addresses the problem it’s trained to combat.” Their work is a cross-discipline endeavor because solving the fake news crisis rests not only on AI, but also requires social and political inputs.