As audience trust and attention spans decline, technological solutions can step in to mitigate the adverse effects of misinformation and, crucially, restore trust. Naomi Owusu, CEO of live blogging platform Tickaroo explains more…
Major events all over the globe – from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine to elections – have served as catalysts for unsuspecting and trusting audiences unknowingly consuming, believing, and further spreading fake news online.
With digital news aggregators and social media platforms rife with fake news, 38% of Brits already harbor a lack of trust in the media, with skepticism even more prevalent among the younger generations. As the problem persists, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate between fake news, real news, propaganda, and opinion, making it even harder to gain and hold trust within the media.
So, what exactly is ‘Fake News’? Described as the dissemination of false information disguised as actual news, this emerging form of propaganda is used to spread misinformation – or even disinformation – amongst the public to influence an individual’s political or personal views. With over 80% of people in the UK regularly being exposed to fake news, this emerging issue has put media publications and their editorial teams on red alert as they battle to cut through the sea of fake news to deliver real and authentic news stories to keep the public informed. In today’s ever-changing media landscape, publishers need to find new ways to reach and inform their audiences while combating the rise and spread of online misinformation.
More and more people are turning to their smartphones as a source of news due to increased social media consumption – over 49% of UK adults consume news via social media. Unsurprisingly, the mobile phone is now the most common place used to consume news (38%) followed by the TV (26%) and computers (26%). This is especially true for younger generations, who prioritize short, sharp, and easily accessible formats to consume news. This mobile revolution has led to consumers having shorter attention spans as they have become accustomed to quick, bite-sized content – the average news reader spends only 5 minutes and 42 seconds reading news articles.
But as easily accessible as global news has become online, it’s also opened the door for self-serving political figures, internet trolls, bots, and the like to generate and circulate fake news within social media outlets to achieve their individual goals and agendas, contributing to a growing distrust in the media and journalism. Fake news can take many forms, ranging from satire being taken seriously, to inaccurate and sensationalist journalism, to malicious hoaxes and for-profit fabrication. Inaccurate and misleading information isn’t just limited to articles or headlines. Pieces of false information can be hidden in pictures, videos and even memes across your timeline.
So, what can we do?
The solution lies in technology
With audiences, trust, and attention spans declining, live blogs are the perfect avenue to share short, relevant, and authentic snippets and keep consumers engaged and informed. Publishers need to deliver short news in updates that mimic the social media experience, and live blogging is the way to accomplish this.
For example, local media can tailor content with international importance to suit their specific regions, also saving time and money. A perfect example is Nordbayern, one of Germany’s largest regional newspapers, which covered US elections in 2020 using a liveblog format – the content produced included relevant information in live feeds specifically aimed at their regional audience, making the content more relevant and accessible – all while providing accurate, unbiased information.
In the UK, fact-checking organizations like FullFact and Factmata have begun to experiment with fact-checking online content through Artificial Intelligence. Ironically, while AI can and is used unethically to contribute to creating and sharing fake news, it has the potential to take off as an imperative industry solution to combat spreading misinformation.
There are several methods AI can use to identify, flag, and track fake news online. AI can check for wrong information – names, dates, and numbers – linked to a topic and cross-reference with content containing similar incorrect information coming from the same source, creating the opportunity to identify the origin of the content. Using processes like natural language processing, AI can also detect if suspicious content was written by a human or computer – a strong indicator as fast-spread fake news is hastily created – and computers generate content faster than humans.
AI can also monitor circulating stories and their level and degree of engagement to analyze any red flags, as fake news tends to have more shares than likes, while ‘regular’ posts possess more likes than shares. While today’s images and videos can be easily manipulated through complex techniques, AI uses algorithms to reverse-engineer any changes made to help spot the manipulated content.
As technology advances and techniques and methods improve, we must remember that AI is a double-edged sword, and finding a balance online will take trial and error. For every group developing cutting-edge AI to target fake news, there is a malicious team finding new ways to use AI to create more sophisticated ways to create and share fake news.
Our freedom of speech can’t be understated
Everyone has the right to free speech – one of the central tenets of our society – including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. The goal of these emerging technologies and methodologies is not to censor individuals but to correct the spread of malicious, harmful, and inaccurate misinformation rotting the global media landscape.
Striking the ideal balance between maintaining our right to the freedom of speech and expression online while effectively regulating toxic and malicious content will take time, innovation, and effort from journalists and AI. As publishers continue to utilize emerging technologies and trends, from liveblogging breaking coverage to fact-checking AI, the media landscape has the potential to create change and gain back the trust of its audiences.
A leader in news and sports media solutions, Tickaroo develops software that enables organizations to engage with their audiences in real-time and reach their monetization goals. Its live blogging software is used by media houses, event organizers, and professional sports clubs and associations, and combines professional digital storytelling and live reporting. Clients include Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel, Singapore Mediacorp, Tri 247, and the Austrian Press Agency.