Excerpt of article, Is technology the key to combatting fake news?, written Emil Eifrem, co-founder and CEO, Neo4j, for IT Pro Portal.

Technology solving the fake news problem

Technology may enable fake news, but surprisingly it can also be the answer to curtailing it. Graph databases, capable of analysing gargantuan amounts of data and uniquely pull out connecting relationships has the innate power to probe fake news.

Graph technology was used by investigative journalists to trawl through terrabytes of data and leverage connections to produce the infamous Panama and Paradise Papers. With Google using knowledge graph to enhance its search engine capabilities and map out the web, it is easy to understand why graph technology could also be a swift remedy to filtering out fake news.

By using a number of machine learning algorithms to build and feed a “news graph”, this can be used as a foundation for analysing news from multiple perspectives. This provides additional insight into the inclinations and credibility of individual news articles and their sources.

The tale behind the Russian trolls

There is no secret behind the fact that Russian operatives cleverly utilised Twitter and other social media platforms in a bid to influence the 2016 US presidential elections cycle by pumping out fake news, for example. The big questions is how did they manage it.

Following the US presidential elections, the House Intelligence committee released a list of 2,752 false Twitter accounts that were believed to have been operated by a Russian troll factory, called the Internet Research Agency. Twitter responded swiftly, closing the accounts and removing the Tweets.

Despite the accounts and Tweets being taken down, journalists form US broadcast giant NBC News were able to put together a subset of them. They used graph technology from Neo4j to analyse this data to make sense of what the Russian troll factory was up to.

NBC News used the graph technology to highlight hidden connections between accounts, posts, flags and websites. By putting together a picture of these hidden connections, reporters could see the patterns behind the fake news. NBC News used the data to expose how these Russian accounts were impersonating every day Americans, drawing hundreds of millions of followers, to circulate propaganda.

A few days later, the special counsel, Robert Mueller’s indictment named the Internet Research Agency and two Twitter accounts spotlighted by NBC News: @TEN_GOP and @March_For_Trump. The NBC reporters’ dataset captured thousands of tweets from these two users.

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