Fake News Challenge offers incentive for cleaning up newsfeeds

(WIAT) — When President Trump took to Twitter to set the record straight on recent references to Sweden, he started with a phrase that’s taken on a whole new life since his election: Fake News.

The term was initially coined to refer to false stories made up to earn money via clicks or send a specific ideological message. However, the words have been repurposed to serve as an attack on many outlets that the White House no longer seems to trust, like CNN or MSNBC.

“We have a fairly narrow definition, and it’s not the kind of stuff you hear coming out of Washington,” said Dean Pomerleau, the organizer of the Fake News Challenge. “It’s really the Macedonian teenager who is making up quotes by famous people that they have never said. That kind of thing is what we consider to be real fake news.”

Pomerleau spoke to CBS42 News over Skype about the president’s tweets on the news media as a whole. The fake news challenge originally set out to find ways to distinguish the difference between the real and the fake on social media. Their challenge was for experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence fields to help address fake news.

“One of the challenges we found is it’s not that easy to distinguish real news from fake news,” Pomerleau said. “So we have actually stepped back a bit, and instead of doing this ‘real news versus fake news detection,’ we are actually building tools now to help fact checkers like Politifact or Snopes or news media people like yourself to be more effective or faster at finding out whether a story going viral is true or not.”

A Pew Research Center survey from December 2016 found that 64 percent of Americans believed fake news is sowing confusion. With Americans pushing back against the noise in their newsfeeds, an automated tool to check the sources interested Pomerleau, who decided to put his money where his mouth is.

The Fake News Challenge runs until June 1, where the top three winners will get a cash prize. Those that wish to compete can still sign up.

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