Journalists to use ‘immune system’ software against fake news

Broadcast, print and online journalists are to begin using an automated fact-checking system that quickly alerts them to false claims made in the press, on TV and in parliament.

An early version of the system, dubbed the “bullshit detector” by its creators, will be rolled out for testing from October as part of a global fightback against fake news.

It is being developed by researchers at the Full Fact organisation in London with $500,000 (£380,000) of funding from charitable foundations backed by two billionaires: the Hungarian-born investor George Soros, and the Iranian-American eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The software, which was demonstrated to the Guardian, scans statements as they are made by politicians and instantly provides a verdict on their veracity. An early version relies on a database of several thousand manual fact-checks, but later versions will automatically access official data to inform the verdict. The researchers are co-operating with the Office of National Statistics on the project.

The Full Fact program will be first tested in the UK but will also be deployed in South America and Africa, where Kenya’s presidential election campaign has been beset by fake news such as bogus BBC and CNN news reports using fabricated polls to overstate the prospects of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In London, Full Fact is working with Chequeado, an Argentina-based fact-checking organisation, and Africa Check, which operates in several sub-Saharan countries, including Nigeria and South Africa.

“It is like trying to build an immune system,” says Mevan Babakar, project manager at Full Fact in London. “As more information goes out into the world that is wrong, what we don’t have is the means of pushing back against that.”



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