Ubaid Zargar

AI is in the town; But who is keeping the tab on fake news?

With AI on an upswing, experts break down the factors that are crucial in curbing fake news.

There is a rise in online news consumption. But online is also the place where deception and trickery run rampant. Fake news, folks. It is always around the corner. 

In all fairness, audiences are rowing past the turbulent seas of misinformation with a certain degree of awareness. Could the rise in news consumption, and the advent of artificial intelligence come together to dismantle the web of lies that surrounds online news consumption? Or is the power of new tech only going to empower the foul players in the game?

In a panel discussion, held at The Future of News 2023, hosted by afaqs!, industry experts dissected the dichotomy of fake news. The speakers on the panel included Gaurav Arora, COO, Jagran New Media; Deepit Purkayastha, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Inshorts; Rakesh Dubbudu, founder and CEO, Factly; Varun Kohli, director and CEO, Bharat Express News Network.

Gaurav Arora, who is the COO at Jaran New Media, is of the opinion that the rise of AI is only going to amplify the mischief in the news world. He says, “Misinformation and disinformation have been there for a long time. they’ve only amplified with time. With AI kicking in, it's so much easier to create any sort of content, and if your intent is malicious there are no limits to what you can do.”

As per Arora, the recent examples of AI misuse serve as a stark reminder of how new tech can fall into the wrong hands. He says, “So, it's a no-brainer that this menace of misinformation and disinformation with deep fakes is going to amplify many times and we have to be very careful of what we consume. As part of the media, it is our duty to put in checks and balances to separate the right from wrong.”

Tech innovators are deploying advanced algorithms and machine learning to fortify the digital ramparts against fake news. Social media platforms, often criticised for amplifying misinformation, are now integrating AI algorithms to identify and flag dubious content. Fact-checking tools, powered by artificial intelligence, are at the forefront of the battle, providing real-time insights into the authenticity of news articles. But does this all amount to a significant halt in fake news? 

Deepit Purkayastha, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Inshorts, points out that issues of malicious use of technology are always going to be prevalent. He says, “Even when we were like 10 years old, there were antiviruses, and then there were viruses which used to break down all firewalls. So, I think this is going to be a chicken and egg going forward.”

Purkayastha believes that the tussle between the fraudsters and the tech police will keep going, while AI will play an important role in assisting us.

“It'll continue with one party outsmarting the other party. I think technology or AI developments will help us detect fake news. But then there'll be something else which will break out, leading up to a constant struggle of balancing challenges and triumphs on the Horizon.”

Rakesh Dubbudu, founder and CEO of Factly, proposes that the efficacy of fake news is also dependent on the audience’s pre-conceived dispositions which can make them gullible. Speaking on the role of AI in tackling fake news, he says, “It's a double-edged sword, partly because the AI models are not perfect in the first place. I don't think there is a silver bullet solution to this. A lot of stakeholders need to come together at an individual level and at a systemic level.”

“But at least on the fact-checking ecosystem front, AI has been leveraged to a good extent. At the same time, if you look at the general public, whether you believe in something or not is driven by a lot of other factors such as your consumption patterns, your beliefs, and your political ideology. Removing behavioural aspects and only looking at a technology solution is not going to work.” he adds.

Varun Kohli, director and CEO, Bharat Express News Network, is more on the positive side of the fence. He believes that discerning consumers are now capable of picking up on credible info while relying on credible and trustworthy sources. He says, “What is happening is people now are not interested in rookie channels that have no credibility. They are going back to the channels they believe in. Now, even the awareness of normal people who want to consume news is fairly high. They know where to consume it from. So, I don't think there is a great danger of it, although some of it will always be there.”

Watch the full panel discussion below

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