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Automated fact-checking won’t stop the social media infodemic

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Fully automated fact-checking won't be the invisible hands that save us from trolls and disinformation.
Fully automated fact-checking won’t be the invisible hands that save us from trolls and disinformation.
Image: Mashable / Vicky Leta
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The coronavirus pandemic, protests over police killings and systemic racism, and a contentious election have created the perfect storm for misinformation on social media

But don’t expect AI to save us.

Twitter’s recent decision to red-flag President Donald Trump’s false claims about mail-in ballots has reinvigorated the debate on whether social media platforms should fact-check posts. 

The president suggested Twitter was “interfering” in the 2020 election by adding a label that encouraged readers to “get the facts about mail-in ballots.”

In response, tech leaders explored the idea of using open-source, fully automated fact-checking technology to solve the problem. 

Not everyone, however, was so enthusiastic. 

“I’m sorry to sound boring and non–science fiction about this, but I feel like that is just a very difficult future for me to be able to see,” Andrew Dudfield, head of automated fact-checking at the UK-based independent nonprofit Full Fact, said. “It requires so much nuance and so much sophistication that I think the technology is not really able to do that at this stage.”

At Full Fact, a grant recipient of Google AI for social good, automation supplements — but doesn’t replace — the traditional fact-checking process. 

Automation’s ability to synthesize large amounts of information has helped fact-checkers adapt to the breadth and depth of the online information environment, Dudfield said. But some tasks — like interpreting verified facts in context, or accounting for different caveats and linguistic subtleties — are currently better served with human oversight.

“We’re using the power of some AI … with enough confidence that we can put that in front of a fact-checker and say, ‘This appears to be a match,’” Dudfield said. “I think taking that to the extreme of automating that work — that’s really pushing things at the moment.”

Mona Sloane, a sociologist who researches inequalities in AI design at New York University, also worries that fully automated fact-checking will help reinforce biases. She points to Black Twitter for example, where colloquial language is often disproportionately flagged as potentially offensive by AI.

To that end, both Sloane and Dudfield said it’s important to consider the nature of the data referenced by an algorithm.

“AI is codifying information that you give it, so if you give the system biased information, the output it generates will be biased,” Dudfield added. “But the inputs are coming from humans. So the problem in these things, ultimately, is making sure that you have the right data that goes in, and that you’re constantly checking these things.”

“If you give the system biased information, the output it generates will be biased.”

If those nuances go unaccounted for in fully automated systems, developers could create engineered inequalities that “explicitly work to amplify social hierarchies that are based in race, class, and gender,” Ruha Benjamin, African American studies professor at Princeton University, writes in her book Race after Technology. “Default discrimination grows out of design process that ignore social cleavages.”

But what happens when business gets in the way of the design process? What happens when social media platforms choose only to employ these technologies selectively to serve the interest of its clients?

Katy Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, said  the economic incentives to boost users and engagement often inform how companies approach corporate social responsibility.

“If you had the top 100 spending advertisers in the world say, ‘We’re sick of myths and disinformation on your platform and we refuse to run our content alongside it,’ you can bet those platforms would do something about it,” Culver said. 

But the problem is that advertisers are often the ones spreading disinformation. Take Facebook, one of Full Fact’s partners, for example. Facebook’s policies exempt some of its biggest advertisers — politicians and political organizations — from fact-checking. 

And Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite defense against critics? The ethics of the marketplace of ideas — the belief that the truth and the most widely accepted ideas will win out in a free competition of information.

But “power is not evenly distributed” in the marketplace, Culver said. 

A Facebook internal finding saw “a larger infrastructure of accounts and publishers on the far right than on the far left,” even though more Americans lean to the left than to the right. 

And time and time again, Facebook has amplified content that’s paid for — even when the information is deliberately misleading, or when it targets Black Americans. 

“Ethics have been used as a smokescreen,” Sloane said. “Because ethics are not enforceable by law… They are not attuned to the wider political, social, and economic contexts. It’s a deliberately vague term that sustains systems of power because what is ethical is defined by those in power.”

Facebook knows that its algorithm is polarizing users and amplifying bad actors. But it also knows that tackling these issues could sacrifice user engagement — and therefore ad revenue, which makes up 98 percent of the company’s global revenue and totaled to almost $69.7 billion in just 2019 alone. 

So it chose to do nothing.

Ultimately, combating disinformation and bias demands more than just performative concerns about sensationalism and defensive commitments to build “products that advance racial justice.” And it takes more than promises that AI will eventually fix everything. 

It requires a genuine commitment to understanding and addressing how existing designs, products, and incentives perpetuate harmful misinformation — and the moral courage to do something about it in the face of political opposition. 

“Products and services that offer fixes for social bias … may still end up reproducing, or even deepening, discriminatory processes because of the narrow ways in which ‘fairness’ is defined and operationalized,” Benjamin writes.

Whose interests are represented from the inception of the design process, and whose interests does it suppress? Who gets to sit at the table, and how transparently can social media companies communicate those processes? 

Until social media companies commit to correcting existing biases, developing fully automated fact-checking technologies don’t seem like the answer to the infodemic. 

And so far, things are not looking so good.

Source: https://mashable.com/article/automated-fact-checking-misinformation/

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‘Pokémon Go’ gets AR Mapping tasks to enable more realistic effects

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Pokémon Go players may see a new tag marking some PokéStops next time they check the app. Niantic has officially launched AR Mapping tasks for level 20 Trainers and up, almost five months after the company announced that it’s launching the feature. When they spin a PokéStop marked with the “AR Mapping” tag, they’ll get a Field Research task that will require them to open the AR scanning screen and to explore the area.

Niantic first announced that it’s working on a PokéStop Scan feature back in May in an effort to improve Pokémon Go’s augmented reality effects. By getting players to scan locations, the developer will get what it needs to be able to create 3D maps of PokéStops. They can then use that data to make critters interact with real—world objects, so they can hide behind a tree trunk instead of just float in front of it. Niantic started testing the better AR effects feature called “Reality Blending” back in May, as well, though it’s limited to users with certain newer Android phones.

The developer says good scans last 20 to 30 seconds and keep the PokéStop in the center of the frame. It’s also encouraging users to walk a full 360 degrees around the location. Niantic Kids accounts won’t have access to the feature yet, even for level 20 Trainers — that’s most likely a good thing, since there’s still a pandemic happening — but parents will get the option to toggle it on in the future.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/pokemon-go-ar-mapping-tasks-050321411.html

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AOC aims to get out the vote by streaming Among Us with pokimane and HasanAbi

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We are about seven months into a pandemic and just two weeks from a presidential election. At this point, surprises are a dime a dozen. So it should feel very 2020 that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about to stream Among Us, the hit game of 2020, on Twitch alongside mega-streamer pokimane and political analyst HasanAbi.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted yesterday that she was looking for people to play the popular game with in an effort to get out the vote, noting that she’s never played before but that it looks fun.

Streamer pokimane, who has 6 million followers on Twitch and whose YouTube videos regularly see more than 1 million views each, responded to the tweet with a figurative raised hand.

HasanAbi, a very popular political commentator on Twitch, who has more than 380,000 Twitter followers, also chimed in to the conversation saying that they’re already making a lobby. It wasn’t long before Rep. Ilhan Omar raised her hand, too.

A good game of Among Us (imagine that someone mixed a fairly basic multiplayer video game with a murder mystery party) usually requires 10 players, so the other six players are still TBD. But the Verge reports that a handful of other streamers (such as DrLupo, Felicia Day, Greg Miller, James Charles, and Neekolul) also lined up to play with AOC.

According to Ocasio-Cortez, the stream is all about getting out the vote. And this isn’t the first time that she’s used video games to connect with her followers. AOC opened up her DMs to all 6.8 million of her followers back in May to let them send her an invite to their island, and she visited them.

Millennial voters (and Gen Z) skew toward backing the Biden / Harris ticket, and AOC is coming to them by getting on Twitch and streaming one of the rocket ship games of this year.

The stream starts at 9pm ET/6pm PT and can be found here.

And you can check if you’re registered to vote here.

Update 9:01pm ET: AOC hasn’t even started playing the game yet and has nearly 250,000 concurrent viewers. 

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/10/20/aoc-aims-to-get-out-the-vote-by-streaming-among-us-with-pokimane-and-hasanabi/

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AOC’s ‘Among Us’ Twitch stream peaked at over 435,000 viewers

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About a year ago the campaign for Donald Trump joined Twitch to push promotional live streams, and tonight, US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will host her first stream on the service. Trump’s foray into Twitch streaming was curious after his administration targeted the same violent video games many Twitch viewers like to watch, while AOC’s previous interaction with Twitch focused on the Army’s attempts to use it as a tool for recruiting. Hopefully she can avoid a two-week ban for misconduct.

Ocasio-Cortez will be playing Innersloth’s breakout hit game Among Us with streamers including Pokimane. She plans to “officially declare orange sus” as well as encourage viewers to make a voting plan. Her new Twitch channel already has almost 250,000 followers, ahead of the inaugural stream that’s scheduled to begin at 9 PM ET.

Update (9:44 PM ET): AOC was an impostor in her first game, and currently her stream alone has peaked at 435,000 viewers, not counting people tuning in via the streams of people watching Ilhan Omar, Dr. Lupo or other players in the game. For context, that’s not as many concurrent viewers as Drake and Ninja’s record-breaking Fortnite stream that peaked at over 600,000, but it’s enough to be perhaps the third-most ever (per @FionnOnFire), with more than Dr. Disrespect’s February 2018 record of 388,000 and trailing Shroud’s Twitch return stream that hit 500,000.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/aoc-among-us-twitch-stream-234654176.html

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