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Could an auto logic checker be the solution to the fake news problem?

  1. Emilita
    Fake news is not news – that is, it is not in fact news, and the matter of fake news is not a recent revelation. But while fake news is a thorny problem that needs addressing in its own right, it is part of an even bigger issue too. Discourse –- the process by which humanity collectively comes to an understanding of itself, and so shapes its own future –- is fundamentally broken.

    [​IMG]The problem begins with the school debate, a win-or-lose scenario where one party ultimately triumphs in the claim for truth. The real world is, of course, more intricate, with numerous subtleties lying between any two extremes. Yet this model persists all the way into international politics, where complex issues are reduced to soundbites. Material that arouses heated emotions within the viewer spreads faster and wider than well-considered, evidence-based argument.

    For an elected leader, a u-turn is seen as the ultimate betrayal, but for a scientist, changing views in the face of better evidence is a sign of the highest integrity. An alert reader would recognise this, but many do not and are left uninformed and angry.

    However, the very social and digital technology that is causing and spreading these problems could instead help tackle the issue.


    Imagine, if you will, a sort of spellchecker application for ideas: that familiar squiggly underline appears for bad logic or conflicting evidence.

    Before you object that any claim could be flagged with contradictory information, or that the choice of beliefs is a personal one, rest assured that the logic checker’s settings could allow for this. Right click, reject correction. Mind you, the checker now knows you must believe one of several alternatives. The evidence was fabricated, the interpretation was wrong, and so on.

    Still, you’ve succeeded in removing the squiggly underline, so long as at least one of those alternatives is compatible with all the other beliefs you’ve previously taught the checker. If not, then you’ll get another error message. If your position is genuinely unrealistic, you’ll ultimately be forced either to reject the scientific method altogether, or more productively, to confront the inconsistencies in your views.

    [​IMG]Is it possible that arguing with an unemotional machine rather than another human would take the ego out of discussion? Being shown where your beliefs contradict themselves would surely be an immensely valuable tool for learning.

    The aim of this fictitious checker is not to be the final arbiter of truth and falsehood – but, in a world of information overload, to track down conflicting evidence and counterarguments faster than you could ever do so yourself. In fact, this isn’t so far from today’s internet search extended into the semantic web, where knowledge is represented as structured data rather than free text. The futuristic part is the text processing, but that’s not essential to the system: the user could instead choose ideas, beliefs and claims manually from a crowdsourced database –- or input their own – rather than the computer doing so automatically. And there are numerous examples of experimental systems like this that have already been built.

    From here to there

    Why then, are we not using automated or crowdsourced logic checking already? It turns out that building a community of people to create the supporting data is harder than building the technology. Successful online communities do exist, albeit they are shaped by their own agendas. Facebook must be the world’s largest repository of community-generated data, but the creation process is shaped by algorithms with the ultimate aim of producing advertising revenue simply by keeping the user engaged for as long as possible.

    Perhaps more interesting is Stack Exchange where communities pose and answer questions on specific topics. Because maintaining a reputed source of information is integral to the business model, user interaction is guided by votes and reputation scores. Still, Stack Exchange has made compromises to this end, most notably an effective ban on subjective questions, which are an essential part of any complete understanding of the world around us.

    Most interesting of all is Wikipedia, which despite its imperfections has succeeded in building a charitable community directed towards documentation of knowledge. Returning to our fictitious logic checker, two projects built on Wikipedia have already taken significant steps towards the sort of structured information necessary to support it: Wikidata could one day become the crowdsourced database mentioned above, while dbPedia attempts to extract the data automatically from existing articles.

    Is this the answer to all of our problems? Of course not. No tool of this type will completely remove the underlying power structures – including, but not limited to, online community business models – that contribute to our present day situation. But these tools have the potential to improve the way we communicate with one another, and that can’t be a bad thing.

    This article is not directly related to drugs but it does discuss the nature of online communities and the availability of information. It proposes an intresting concept that might intrigue fellow members. Links to outside websites have been removed intentionally.

    Original Source

    Written by: Crispin Cooper, Mar 12, 2017, Could an auto logic checker be the solution to the fake news problem?, The Conversation

Recent User Reviews

  1. perro-salchicha614
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 27, 2017
    Interesting topic for discussion.
  2. DroppedYourPocket
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 27, 2017
    Thought provoking


  1. Jon P. Vonnegut
    I agree with this author totally, yes I'm raising a beer for you comrade for hitting the nail on the red here talking about the importance of crowd sourcing. Exactly, that's what governments are for, totally agreed. your getting at the point now that others shy away from, you gotta put the pie back in the pack right? Because I think your right again and while you're not stating outright that the National Security Agency has the best quality and scope of user data for building the very crowd-sourced fact checker you described... You have a point.

    So anyone can say they care. I'm with you on this, Tim. I also think National Security Agency has shown some decency and forethought to collect the things we lose or discard. I second the sentiment of being fed up with others calling that agency out for breaking the law. You don't break what you make, and besides... I fact checked you and yup, the US Constitution does state that national surveillance is reserved for wartime only. I guess I understand your article, it's saying that America is at war. And if you're right, it only suggests that the war is classified which can happen so I took your advice verbatim and tried to imagine what would happen if our national agencies stopped protecting our private communications on the cloud. So the idea you raise here about keeping the NSA around and putting that aggregate data to work for the public, like for a squiggly line fact checker that would make fun of rednecks all day, that's as important as your saying, and I think what you're saying is that we should keep ISIS from entering through Mexico first, and second, opt all in on unlimited surveillance. Because, in return, if I follow you, we, meaning we the developer community, would get access to this aggregate data? Of course they could remove the PID, that would be helpful for everybody. Well you have an ambitious plan. I hope you follow through and obtain the data that way.
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