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Fake News and Artifical Intelligence

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It seems that the robot uprising is imminent now, though in an entirely different way than thought of. The Hollywood action-sequence-defining ‘The Matrix’¬†trilogy showcased a world ruled completely by machine and for years, stories, musings, fantasies, and imaginations have flown far and wide wondering over such similar scenarios. But today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to be taking over the world in an entirely different way: Through¬†Fake News.

What is going on exactly?

AI Fake news
Image Source – Wikipedia

In December 2015, Elon Musk founded the company OpenAI that aimed to promote friendly AI interactions which would benefit humanity as a whole. However, the organization developed a text generation tool that is now able to generate bogus news which sounds so convincing that its very existence now seems alarming. The text generation tool utilizes the input of a few starting words and generates an entire, fully convincing fake story/news that is grammatically correct and syntactically appears to have been written by a reputed news organization. Take a look below for example


Russia has declared war on the United States after Donald Trump accidentally fired a missile in the air.

Russia said it had “identified the missile’s trajectory and will take necessary measures to ensure the security of the Russian population and the country’s strategic nuclear forces.” The White House said it was “extremely concerned by the Russian violation” of a treaty banning intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

The US and Russia have had an uneasy relationship since 2014, when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

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The OpenAI’s text generation tool developed the above fake news when it was fed the words “Russia has declared war on the United States after Donald Trump accidentally...”¬†The company provided the tool to the MIT for testing and research purposes. According to researchers, this may only be the beginning, with coming advancements in technology much stronger and smoother than before.

So what does this mean?

Thankfully, the technology is not polished at the moment. Most of the times, it simply plagiarizes content or writes stories that appear cohesive only at the surface, which means it can be easily identified. However, when it does hit the occasional jackpot, things tend to seem messy. Furthermore, Jack Clark from the company has warned that it would only take about a couple of more years before the technology is advanced enough and produces a story that is so fake that it would take a thorough fact check to disprove it. And before companies or newspapers could disprove or challenge it, the retweets and re-shares would have made the damage too catastrophic to control.

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The Problem with Fake News

Actually, this is the core problem with AI. Even though several social media companies are fighting against fake news and Microsoft Edge even has a NewsGuard feature that checks the websites you are visiting, but there is only so much that companies can do if a flood of machine-generated information comes riding in. The development of AI took place as an ethical solution to the world’s problems, but there’s no telling when an unscrupulous or even unwitting organization, or some hostile government creates some fake news and spreads it over a massive scale which could cause anything from mass panic to violence. Although the company has decided to make only a simplified version of the AI available for public, it still rings the question just how safe the digital world is.

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