Today, all of us live in filter bubbles online, in which the news we read is increasingly tailormade for our personal tastes. This is a problem for media companies and readers alike — and it’s one that an intriguing new online news aggregator hopes to help solve.
Called Knowhere, the newly launched website is the work of a media-savvy entrepreneur and some Stanford-trained artificial intelligence experts. It uses machine learning tools to cover the day’s biggest stories by offering left, impartial, and right-leaning versions of each. The components of these stories are aggregated from various online news outlets and then rewritten by an A.I. Each story can reportedly be written in as little as 60 seconds to 15 minutes, depending on the complexity of the piece. Once that process is completed, a human editor then reviews the story, which further trains the news-writing algorithms. The result? Not only a whip-fast news aggregation site, but one which could help break the filter-bubble problem.
“I was inspired by my father who was an investigative journalist and correspondent for the BBC throughout my childhood,” co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Nathaniel Barling told Digital Trends. “Each night he would bring home three papers, The Guardian, The Times, and The Telegraph. He’d ask me to read all three of them so that I could gain a balanced perspective on the day’s news.”
Knowhere calls up the bias of each article it writes with a large “left,” “right” or “impartial” label. By featuring all three versions, Barling said he hopes the website will reduce the effect of people being trapped in their own online echo chambers — whichever side of the political spectrum those happen to be on. (Or, if you’re cynical, try to pander to all possible audiences.)
“Knowhere is most useful for reaching one simple, but extremely hard to achieve, goal: finding the truth,” he said. “We present our readers with the facts of each story, and the narratives being built around them, so that they can develop their own informed opinions. This is particularly useful for news where there’s a high degree of controversy and partisan sentiment. In this case, you will often see different publications covering the same news with a very strong ‘house-spin’, without actually saying anything ‘untrue.’ There also tends to be a greater misrepresentation of facts on controversial news items, which our technology is designed to identify and omit. Our journalism will appeal to readers who want to know the full and accurate story, free of bias.”
Will it work? We will have to wait and see. Judging from the fact that Knowhere has already scored $1.8 million in funding, however, at least a few people believe that this is the future of journalism.