Another research paper, “Timing Matters When Correcting Fake News,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by researchers at Harvard University, differed from the RPI researchers in its findings. While Nevo and her collaborators found that it’s easier to convince people that a story is fake news before reading it, the Harvard researchers, led by Nadia M. Brashier, a psychologist and neuroscientist, discovered that a fact-check can convince people of misinformation even after reading headlines. When study subjects read true or false labels after reading a headline, that resulted in a 25.3 percent reduction in “subsequent misclassification,” when compared to headlines with no tag, Brashier and her team found.

In the end, fighting misinformation will require both computing and human efforts such as policy changes, says Benjamin D. Horne, an assistant professor of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee and one of Nevo’s co-authors. He says the RPI-Tennessee work was inspired by AI tools he designed previously. Horne was previously a research assistant at RPI, where he developed machine learning (ML) algorithms that can detect partial truths as well as decontextualized truths and out-of-date information.

“Our algorithms are trained on source-level behavior, both when using the textual content of an article and the network of other news sources that it draws news from,” Horne said. “We have found that these two types of features together are quite good at distinguishing between sources labeled as reliable or unreliable by external news source ratings.”

The machine learning algorithms analyze the writing style and the content-sharing behavior of news outlets, Horne said. Researchers trained a supervised ML algorithm called Random Forest, a classification algorithm that uses decision trees.

AI for Detecting Fake News

So, what’s the potential for AI to be successful in detecting misinformation?

“The tools we have developed, and other tools developed in this area, have fairly high accuracy in lab settings,” says Horne. “For example, our most recent technical work showed around 83% accuracy in predicting when the source of a news article is reliable or unreliable.”

Despite the effectiveness of algorithms, old-fashioned fact-checking by journalists will still be required to combat fake news. AI could filter the information for fact-checkers to verify, according to Horne.

“AI tools are great at dealing with high quantities of information at fast speeds but lack the nuanced analysis that a journalist or fact-checker can provide,” Horne said. “I see a future where the two work together.”