Artificial intelligence can help filter out fake news.
Women in Security
Disinformation has been used in warfare and military strategy over time. But it is undeniably being intensified by the use of smart technologies and social media. This is because these communication technologies provide a relatively low-cost, low-barrier way to disseminate information basically anywhere.
The million-dollar question then is: Can this technologically produced problem of scale and reach also be solved using technology?
Indeed, the continuous development of new technological solutions, such as artificial intelligence (AI), may provide part of the solution.
However, AI detection still remains unreliable. First, current detection is based on the assessment of text (content) and its social network to determine its credibility. Despite determining the origin of the sources and the dissemination pattern of fake news, the fundamental problem lies within how AI verifies the actual nature of the content.
Theoretically speaking, if the amount of training data is sufficient, the AI-backed classification model would be able to interpret whether an article contains fake news or not. Yet the reality is that making such distinctions requires prior political, cultural and social knowledge, or common sense, which natural language processing algorithms still lack.
Classification analysis is also heavily influenced by the theme — AI often differentiates topics, rather than genuinely the content of the issue to determine its authenticity. For example, articles related to COVID-19 are more likely to be labelled as fake news than other topics.
A similar approach could be taken in Canada by establishing a national special unit or department to combat disinformation, or supporting think tanks, universities and other third parties to research AI solutions for fake news.
Controlling the spread of fake news may, in some instances, be considered censorship and a threat to freedom of speech and expression. Even a human may have a hard time judging whether information is fake or not. And so perhaps the bigger question is: Who and what determine the definition of fake news? How do we ensure that AI filters will not drag us into the false positive trap, and incorrectly label information as fake because of its associated data?
An AI system for identifying fake news may have sinister applications. Authoritarian governments, for example, may use AI as an excuse to justify the removal of any articles or to prosecute individuals not in favour of the authorities. And so, any deployment of AI — and any relevant laws or measurements that emerge from its application — will require a transparent system with a third party to monitor it.
Future challenges remain as disinformation — especially when associated with foreign intervention — is an ongoing issue. An algorithm invented today may not be able to detect future fake news.