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Factsheet: Understanding the Promise and Limits of Automated Fact-Checking

28 Feb 2018

Journalists and computer scientists are working to develop automated fact-checking (AFC) to enable large-scale responses to online misinformation, according to a new factsheet. The study identifies a number of new automated tools, but finds their application remains limited by the complexity and nuances of most misinformation online.

Understanding the promise and limits of automated fact-checking, by Lucas Graves, senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute, highlights the work of professional fact-checkers, platform companies, and artificial intelligence researchers.

Graves concludes that despite new initiatives aimed at developing automated verification tools, they are still incapable of replicating the sensitive contextual judgements required in fact-checking.

Some AFC tools are able to verify a range of simple factual claims, where clear data is available, but only under human supervision - and it is likely that such supervision will be required for the foreseeable future.

Practitioners and researchers agree the most effective AFC are those that help human fact-checkers to identify factual claims, and to deliver their conclusions as effectively as possible.

Graves finds that non-profit, independent fact-checking organisations, such as Full Fact, a UK-based charity, Chequeado, a fact-checking non-profit based in Brazil, and Tech & Check Alerts from Duke Reporters Lab, at Duke University in the US, have pioneered the implementation of automated verification tools. They have received little help or investment from traditional media organisations.

While many of the tools have been built at low cost, non-profit organisations are likely to need financial and logistical support from larger organisations and institutions in the future, if they are to realise their full potential.

Find out more and download the factsheet here