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40% election-related news items in April were biased: Report

40% election-related news items in April were biased: Report
June 19
16:23 2019

MUMBAI: As much as 40 per cent of the election-related news published by media outlets in April were “biased”, claims a study that has deployed artificial intelligence to test the authenticity of the news items.

However, when it comes to fake news, the publishers’ record was better for the month, with 85 per cent of the published items being found to be genuine.

“There is a careful selection of the facts by the media, such that a story was not fake, but was biased,” Lyric Jain, founder of the England-based startup Logically, which did the study, told PTI over the phone Wednesday.

The study, which covered 1.68 lakh election-related news items in various media outlets in April, when the election fever was at its peak, has found that 50,000 pieces or 40 per cent of them, were “biased”.

He said the AI algorithm picks up “bias” from various aspects, including the general slant if the article is objective or subjective and the usage of particular words which may be sensational in nature.

Jain further said there was a system of escalation, wherein whatever was doubtful for the AI passed a level of moderation by the system and then also a human fact checking.

The firm did its study of 3,000 news sources which put out content in English, including 3,000 mainstream publishers, for April.

As for fake news, Jain said the study encompassed 9.5 lakh news stories overall, and 33,000 of them were found to be fake, while 1.33 lakh were unreliable.

Jain claimed his company has developed an algorithm which can detect fake news using various inputs, including how have the entrenched mainstream media brands (over 100 of such publishers were part of the study) cover a particular event or a development.

The low fake news percentage was attributed to the tepid activity, which according to Jain, was by the “fringe” players who publish only three to four news articles a day compared to the tens of hundreds of stories put out by the mainstream ones.

He said while the job is done by dedicated fact-checking websites has to be appreciated, stress on human intervention in every aspect is not able to get the necessary scale.

There are only about 25 people doing fact-checking in the country and they had collectively put out only 700 fact checks prior to April, Jain claimed.

Jain said his company owes its existence to the fake news problems reported in the US ahead of the 2016 presidential election that brought Donald Trump to the White House, who was accused of benefitting from the Russian meddling in the elections and the campaigns.

It offers services both directly to consumers, where it has developed a news aggregation platform which supplies genuine news stories and also to businesses where it helps social media platforms and brands, he said.

At present, the company employs 73 worldwide and looks at India as a “growth market”, he said. PTI

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