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Fake news? A.I. algorithm reveals political bias in the stories you read

Here in 2020, internet users have ready access to more news media than at any other point in history. But things aren’t perfect. Click-driven ad models, online filter bubbles, and the competition for readers’ attention means that political bias has become more entrenched than ever. In worst-case scenarios, this can tip over into fake news. Other times, it simply means readers receive a slanted version of events, without necessarily realizing that this is the case.

What if artificial intelligence could be used to accurately analyze political bias to help readers better understand the skew of whatever source they are reading? Such a tool could conceivably be used as a spellcheck- or grammar check-type function, only instead of letting you know when a word or sentence isn’t right, it would do the same thing for the neutrality of news media — whether that be reporting or opinion pieces.

That is what the creators of a new algorithm developed by The Bipartisan Press claims to be able to do. They have built an A.I. that can, they say, predict whether text leans left or right with more than 96% accuracy.

“The A.I., which is based on state-of-the-art technology like BERT and XLNet takes in text input, and outputs a numerical value to denote the bias,” Winston Wang, managing editor at the Bipartisan Press, told Digital Trends. “We used a scale of -1 to 1 for simplicity, where a negative value shows left bias, while a positive value shows right bias. The absolute value of the result shows the degree of bias. For example, an article with 0.8 has a considerable amount of pro-right bias.”

The system uses a variety of A.I. approaches, some of which are described here. The excitement of being able to use A.I. for a task such as this is that it opens up the possibility of assessing news coverage and other content at a scale that would be impossible for human raters. (And, provided it works as well as described, potentially with more consistent accuracy, too.)

Wang said that the team is currently working to create a Chrome browser plugin. This could be used to help educate readers on the biases of news articles they read. The A.I. could also potentially be utilized for better content-recommendation systems. Finally, it could help news writers be aware of biases they may not even realize they have, thereby giving them prompts for more objectivity.

You can check out a demo of the A.I. here. For what it’s worth, this story has “minimal” bias.

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