Using factual information from summary infoboxes from Wikipedia* as a source, they built a “knowledge graph” with 3 million concepts and 23 million links between them. A link between two concepts in the graph can be read as a simple factual statement, such as “Socrates is a person” or “Paris is the capital of France.”
In the first use of this method, IU scientists created a simple computational fact-checker that assigns “truth scores” to statements concerning history, geography and entertainment, as well as random statements drawn from the text of Wikipedia. In multiple experiments, the automated system consistently matched the assessment of human fact-checkers in terms of the humans’ certitude about the accuracy of these statements.
Dealing with misinformation and disinformation
In what the IU scientists describe as an “automatic game of trivia,” the team applied their algorithm to answer simple questions related to geography, history, and entertainment, including statements that matched states or nations with their capitals, presidents with their spouses, and Oscar-winning film directors with the movie for which they won the Best Picture awards. The majority of tests returned highly accurate truth scores.
Lastly, the scientists used the algorithm to fact-check excerpts from the main text of Wikipedia, which were previously labeled by human fact-checkers as true or false, and found a positive correlation between the truth scores produced by the algorithm and the answers provided by the fact-checkers.
Significantly, the IU team found their computational method could even assess the truthfulness of statements about information not directly contained in the infoboxes. For example, the fact that Steve Tesich — the Serbian-American screenwriter of the classic Hoosier film “Breaking Away” — graduated from IU, despite the information not being specifically addressed in the infobox about him.
Using multiple sources to improve accuracy and richness of data
“The measurement of the truthfulness of statements appears to rely strongly on indirect connections, or ‘paths,’ between concepts,” said Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research in the IU Bloomington School of Informatics and Computing, who led the study….
“These results are encouraging and exciting. We live in an age of information overload, including abundant misinformation, unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories whose volume threatens to overwhelm journalists and the public. Our experiments point to methods to abstract the vital and complex human task of fact-checking into a network analysis problem, which is easy to solve computationally.”
Expanding the knowledge base
Although the experiments were conducted using Wikipedia, the IU team’s method does not assume any particular source of knowledge. The scientists aim to conduct additional experiments using knowledge graphs built from other sources of human knowledge, such as Freebase, the open-knowledge base built by Google, and note that multiple information sources could be used together to account for different belief systems….(More)”