People have been upset about the prevalence of fake news since the election season last year. Election has been a year, but fake news is still around because the society is still politically charged. Some tech companies vowed to fight against fake news, but, easy to imagine, this is a tough task.
Fake news itself is a big problem. It has philosophical, social, political, or psychological aspects, but Prof. Golbeck focused on its data science aspect. But to make it a computational problem, a clear and succinct definition of “fake news” has to be present, but it is already challenging. Some “fake news” is pun intended, or sarcasm, or jokes (like The Onion). Some misinformation is shared through Twitter or Facebook not because of deceiving purpose. Then a line to draw is difficult. But the undoubtable part is that we want to fight against news with malicious intent.
To fight fake news, as Prof. Golbeck has pointed out, there are three main tasks:
- detecting the content;
- detecting the source; and
- modifying the intent.
Statistical tools can be exploited too. She talked about Benford’s law, which states that, in naturally occurring systems, the frequency of numbers’ first digits is not evenly distributed. Anomaly in the distribution of some news can be used as a first step of fraud detection. (Read her paper.)
There are also efforts, Fake News Challenge for example, in building corpus for fake news, for further machine learning model building.
However, I am not sure fighting fake news is enough. Many Americans are not simply concerned by the prevalence of fake news, but also the narration because of our ideological bias. Sometimes we are not satisfied because we think the news is not “neutral” enough, or, it does not fit our worldview.
- “Fake News as a Data Science Challange,” Data Science DC (Aug 9, 2017). [Meetup] [slides on Google Drive] [Video on Facebook]
- Jennifer Golbeck. [HTML]
- Benford’s Law. [Wikipedia]
- Jennifer Golbeck, “Benford’s Law Applies to Online Social Networks,” PLoS ONE 10.8: e0135169 (2015). [PLoS]
- Fake News Challenge. [HTML]
Featured image taken from http://www.livingroomconversations.org/fake_news