Argument technology helping to combat fake news
Published On Thu 15 Mar 2018 by Roddy Isles
Cutting-edge argument technology developed at the University of Dundee will be used by thousands of school pupils across the UK this month as part of a major BBC initiative supporting young people to identify real news and filter out fake or false information.
The Centre for Argument Technology (ARG-tech) at the University of Dundee is a world leader in developing technology which can dissect and analyse argument and debate. Among other projects, ARG-tech researchers have collaborated over the past decade with the BBC Religion & Ethics team who produce Radio 4’s `Moral Maze’ programme.
Now the technology they have developed in `The Evidence Toolkit’ is being made available to 16 to 18-year-olds taking part in a UK-wide initiative delivered by the BBC’s media literacy project School Report.
The Evidence Toolkit employs complex algorithms to provide a `reason checker’. This is similar to the grammar checker you find in a word processor, but used to help decide what the claims and reasons are in a news article, how they are connected, and how strong the reasoning is overall.
“Dissecting news articles to determine their anatomy and figure out how they're working is a delicate business,” said Professor Chris Reed, director of the Centre. “The Evidence Toolkit equips users with a set of razor-sharp tools to go about it.”
John Lawrence, lead developer on the project, explained, “The Toolkit employs state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques for argument mining. This is the first time AI has been unleashed to help understand the structure of news articles.”
The Evidence Toolkit makes use of material from BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze programme to illustrate how to recognise claims and evidence to help School Report participants to understand what's fake and what's not.
Up to 1000 schools will be offered mentoring – in class, online, or at events – from the likes of BBC journalists such as Huw Edwards, Tina Daheley, Nikki Fox, Kamal Ahmed and Amol Rajan as part of the School Report initiative.
All schools will have access to free online materials classroom activities, video tutorials, and an interactive game developed by the world-famous Aardman studio, where the player experiences being a BBC journalist in the heart of the newsroom.
A Reality Check Roadshow will also tour the country.
Notes to Editors
BBC School Report is a partnership between BBC News, BBC Academy, BBC Sport and BBC Children’s. The project gives 60,000 young people each year the opportunity to research and produce their own reports with the help of BBC staff mentors. There is an annual BBC School Report News Day when the BBC promotes their stories across platforms and on http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport
The Centre for Argument Technology at the University of Dundee currently receives research funding from EPSRC, H2020 and the Volkswagen Stiftung (http://www.arg.tech).
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