Innovation

How AI fights the war against fake news

File photo - Newspapers and magazines are seen in a kiosk in Paris, France, April 22, 2016. (REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

File photo - Newspapers and magazines are seen in a kiosk in Paris, France, April 22, 2016. (REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

A three-headed alien is wandering around Central Park right now. If you believe that, you might be susceptible to a fake news story. Artificial Intelligence technology, however, could be a vital weapon in the war on fake news, according to cybersecurity companies.

Popular during the last election but still prevalent on Facebook and other social media channels, fake news stories make wild claims, tend to exist only on a handful of minor news sites, and can be difficult to verify.

Yet, artificial intelligence could help us all weed out the good from the bad.

Experts tell Fox News that machine learning, natural language processing, semantic identification, and other techniques could at least provide a clue about authenticity.

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Catherine Lu, a product manager at fraud detection company DataVisor, says AI could detect the semantic meaning behind a web article. Here’s one example. With the three-headed alien, a natural language processing (or NLP) engine could look at the headline, the subject of the story, the geo-location, and the main body text. An AI could determine if other sites are reporting the same facts. And the AI could weigh the facts against established media sources.

“The New York Times is probably a more reputable of a source than an unknown, poorly designed website,” Lu told Fox News. “A machine learning model can be trained to predict the reputation of a web site, taking into account features such as the Alexa web rank and the domain name (for example, a .com domain is less suspicious than a .web domain).”

Ertunga Arsal, the CEO of German cybersecurity company ESNC, tells Fox News that an AI has an advantage in detecting fake news because of the extremely large data set -- billions of websites all over the world. Also, the purveyors of fake news are fairly predictable.

One example he mentioned is that many of the fake news sites register for a Google AdSense account (using terms like “election”), then start posting the fake news. (Since once of the primary goals is to get people to click and then collect the ad revenue.)

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“An AI could use keyword analytics in discovering and flagging sensational words often used in fake news headlines,” he said, noting that there will only be an increase in the number of fake news stories, similar to the rise of spam, and the time is now to do something about it.

Dr. Pradeep Atrey from the University at Albany has already conducted research on semantic processing to detect the authenticity of news sites. He tells Fox News a similar approach could be used to detect fake news. For example, an algorithm could rate sites based on a “reward and punishment” system. Less popular sites would be rated as less trustworthy.

“There are methods that can be used to at least minimize, if not fully eradicate, fake news instances,” he says. “It depends on how and up to what extent we use such methods in practice.”

Unfortunately, according to Dr. Atrey, many people don’t take the extra step to verify the authenticity of news sites to determine trustworthiness. An AI could identify a site as fake and pop up a warning to proceed with caution, similar to how malware detection works.

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Not everyone is on board with using an AI to detect fake news, however.

Paul Shomo, a Senior Technical Manager at security firm Guidance Software, tells Fox News that fake news producers could figure out how to get around the AI algorithms. He says it’s “a little scary” to think an AI might mislabel a real news story as fake (known as a false positive).

Book author Darren Campo, adjunct professor at the NYU Stern School of Business says fake news is primarily about an emotional response. He says people won’t care if an AI has identified news as fake. What they often care about is whether the news matches up with their own worldview.

“Fake news protects itself by embedding a ‘fact’ in terms that can be defended,” he tells Fox News. “While artificial intelligence can identify a fact as incorrect, the AI cannot comprehend the context in which people enjoy believing a lie.”

That’s at least good news for the three-headed alien.