Are law and technology a solution to fake news?

Stakeholders try to find a robust and effective solution to distinguishing fact from fiction

Fake news and its related social issues have been a big concern and the Government of India has tried several legislative changes to address its genesis, spread and impact. Social media companies are also investing billions of dollars in technological solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI) to detect fake news and how it is spread. Are these the best solutions to solving a problem as old as humanity or is there another effective solution?

Looking at the statistics on the judicial system in India, the judicial system needs to become more robust before it can be seen as an effective solution. Even the formulation of laws in itself does not prevent misconduct.

When Timnit Gebru, former co-head of Google’s ethical AI team, left without further ado, MIT technology review identified the key aspects of her unpublished article that had made a splash on Google. To sum up, training large AI models requires tremendous computing power and energy, which has been growing since 2017, along with an ever-increasing carbon footprint. That Technology review reported that the “Transformer” model consumed 6,56,347 kilowatt hours (kWh) as in January 2019 and had a carbon footprint of 6,26,155 pounds of carbon equivalent at cloud computing costs between $ 9,42,973 and $ 32.01 .722 USD generated a single training of the AI model. These models must be trained several times before they can be used. Since the models tend to use texts already available on the Internet, the AI also tends to reflect strong negative human prejudices. The numerical values make clear the environmental pollution and the possibility of access to already disadvantaged parts of society.

Fake news is disinformation that has no basis in reality, but is presented as facts. Since it is designed to manipulate both a person’s intellect and emotions, it can provoke strong emotional responses in the reader that can sometimes lead to violence. Statistics from social media websites show that fake news generates much higher levels of engagement among readers than real news. While digital networks have contributed to the exponential spread of fake news, this is not really a new phenomenon.

In an experimental study conducted among freshman history students who were given some historical content, it was found that beginners made claims for which there was no evidence, either inaccurate or unrelated.

India’s diversity is its strength, but it is also the source of numerous conflicts that have lasted for decades. These conflicts, which are rooted in historical claims about politics, culture and religion, will intensify if the historical assumptions and data behind the corresponding fake news are not contextually analyzed and questioned. The problem is exacerbated by the decline in history education programs around the world. While the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) curriculum includes elements of historical thinking, state bodies focus primarily on content memorization.

The Constitution of India provides a long-term solution under Article 51A (h), which states: “It is the duty of every citizen to develop the scientific temperament, humanism and the spirit of research and reform.” Regarding the nation, it unfortunately ignores historical thinking.

Historical thinking is the set of thinking skills required to learn history or work through history and is independent of content. It consists of concepts such as point of view, evidence, source validity and reliability, contextualization, and confirmation, among other skills. Historical thinking skills can also be applied to a variety of areas such as law, forensics, politics and research, as well as dealing with the real-world problem of “fake news”.

In the case of fake news, a person would need to be able to read a message, examine the source for bias, and determine whether the allegations are actually data-tainted or whether they are deliberately misinformation. Since fake news is supposed to arouse emotions, it is even more important that a person is able to question evidence, contextualize the information and support it with alternative sources. If historical thinking is so widespread, why is it lacking in active public discourse and in the education system?

Vikram Vincent holds a PhD in Educational Technology from IIT Bombay