As Fake News came into prominence during the 2016 American election and spilled like a massive tsunami into 2017, the tech giants did what they do best; throw technology at a problem. The bright and shiny sword they held forth was Artificial Intelligence (AI). Except it turned out to be dull and as useful as trying to mow the lawn with a hammer. And it’s unlikely it will any time soon.
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What AI is Good at and Bad at
The kind of AI that we see in Hollywood movies from Spielbergs more gentle take to the blunt force trauma of the Terminator is called “general AI” and is the kind that can carry on a diverse conversation, spot subtle clues and has nuance. It would, essentially, have a conscience. Except we don’t know what consciousness actually is. Today, AI has several branches, from Machine Learning to Natural Language Processing (NLP.) They’re all used in various ways and mixed and matched.
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Yet AI today can only do one thing very well. AI today is classified by techies as “weak AI” because it can’t really combine all the disciplines together to think. Keeping in mind that thinking is different from intelligence and different again from solving multiple complex problems.
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So AI is very good at doing a specific task that has a process to it. While AI can do some impressive problem solving, it solves problems within a set of confines.
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Why AI Can’t Solve Fake News
The primary challenge of I to deal with Fake News is that AI is today, unable to deal with nuance and subtlety. And Fake News is all about that. Over time, as in years, with extensive training, AI will likely improve. The challenge is that such training requires a lot of people and data to train the algorithms of AI. It also means a lot of energy and massive data centres. It may well be too expensive right now to train an AI and we’re also not in enough of an advanced state with understanding consciousness to bring AI along.
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This is further evidenced as both Facebook and Google backed away from using AI and have quietly added more humans to manage Fake News on their digital channels.
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For now, AI can’t solve this deeply complex problem. That means placing more onus on humans and using public policy tools to help deal with a form of propaganda that is sure to impact many countries in the years ahead.

About the Author Giles Crouch

Giles is managing partner of Ekspansiv, a global digital business advisory firm to news media companies . A polymath with over 20 years experience in the digital world, Giles brings together marketing communications, digital anthropology and digital behavioural economics for client projects. He has extensive experience with news media and publishing. Giles is also regularly interviewed by media regarding technology and industry trends. He has completed over 300 digital research projects for clients around the world. Giles co-founded the Ice Awards, an advertising creative awards program in 2001. His clients have included, newspaper, magazine and book publishers as well as pure-play digital media companies. He occasionally works as interim CIO or CDO and senior marketing guidance.

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