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Fake news: Could "moral tech" emerge to protect us?


Currently being blamed for everything from Brexit to influencing the US elections, fake news is increasingly seen as a genuine danger to democracy.Technology is certainly a huge factor in the rise of fake news. It made publishing cheap and, as a result of the intense competition that bred, made traditional sources less visible. However, while the root of the problem, technology may also step in as potential help here – marking a much more hopeful way forward for us all potentially.

The fake news lessons from the biggest data scoop so far

Graph databases – which first came to prominence with the Google algorithm many years ago – are a key weapon in the fight for a more moral online new technology that Amanpour and other concerned observers want. Uniquely able to navigate relationships in data, graph technology has impeccable investigative journalist credibility already, as it was one of the key enabling technologies used in the Panama and Paradise Papers.

And graph technology is now powering probes into Russian fake news. During the 2016 US presidential elections Twitter was likely used to propagate fake news to influence the Presidential election, and the House Intelligence committee has released a list of 2,752 false Twitter accounts believed to be operated by a known Russian troll factory, the Internet Research Agency.

Even though these accounts and tweets were immediately removed from Twitter.com and the Twitter API, journalists at US broadcaster NBC News were still able to assemble a subset of them – and using a graph database were able to analyse the data.

The result was a story about how this form of fake news might have affected the 2016 US Presidential election.

Preventing future fake news

So, what can social media platforms and governments do to monitor and prevent future abuse? The verdict’s clear – it’s all about us being enabled to spot these kinds of connections. It’s difficult to identify these relationships in a dataset if you’re not using a technology purpose-built for displaying connected data.

Graph visualization highlights the complex connections among social media data elements – and just as with detecting the secret financial affairs of the 1% in the Panama and Paradise Papers, the key to detecting and then fighting back against fake news has to be in spotting the connections that reveal the manipulation


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