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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

News Credibility, Verification and the Madness of Crowds - A Junk News Roundup

As the Associated Press states in our News Values and Principles:

"We have a long-standing role setting the industry standard for ethics in journalism. It is our job — more than ever before — to report the news accurately and honestly."

It is easy to see how AP is taking concrete steps in this area by, for example, our fact checking work (online, on twitter). And the AP Verify project is building a "newsroom tool that will combine artificial intelligence with our editorial expertise to automatically source and verify user-generated content."

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some efforts going on elsewhere in the areas of credibility, verification and identifying junk news.

Standards Efforts

The IEEE is working on P7011 "Standard for the Process of Identifying and Rating the Trustworthiness of News Sources". The IEEE is a formal standards body, responsible for many of the technical standards which underpin the internet.

The Credibility Coalition describes itself as "an interdisciplinary community committed to improving our information ecosystems and media literacy through transparent and collaborative exploration." It is not, in itself, a standards body. If you examine the CredCo "about" page, you will spot my photo - I attended early meetings.

The Credible Web W3C Community Group describes its mission as "to help shift the Web toward more trustworthy content without increasing censorship or social division." There is a significant overlap between members of the Credibility Coalition and the Credible Web Community Group.  Despite the W3C link, this is not a formal standards effort - Community Groups are open to anyone. There are weekly video conferences to define an informal standard.

The Trust Project describes itself as "a consortium of top news companies" and says it "is developing transparency standards that help you easily assess the quality and credibility of journalism." Again, the Trust Project is not a formal standards body (like IEEE, IPTC or W3C).

Verification Projects

At the recent IPTC meeting, we saw presentations about two European projects aimed at helped to identify the spread of misinformation.

Truly Media is a joint project between ATC and Deutsche Welle. It is a "a web-based collaboration platform developed to support primarily journalists and human rights workers in the verification of digital content," and was developed with funds from EU and the DNI.

InVid aims to develop "a knowledge verification platform to detect emerging stories and assess the reliability of newsworthy video files and content spread via social media." It is an EU-funded project. Their demo was quite sophisticated. They also have a browser plugin which lets you verify news video and images yourself.

Wisdom and Madness

Finally, via Fair Warning, I saw "The Wisdom and Madness of Crowds" - a fun explainer in the form of a game. It walks you through why some crowds turn to madness and some to wisdom, with a focus on the spread of misinformation but also good information. It helps give some insight into the different dynamics at play and even some suggestions for how to reduce the spread of junk news and amplify the spread of verified news.

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