‘Shark Tank’ star Mark Cuban is funding British startup Factmata to combat fake news
Funding the fight against fake news is a million dollar project.
That’s how much Dhruv Ghulati, the 25-year-old CEO behind London-based startup Factmata, a news aggregator that uses artificial intelligence to fact check and flag suspicious content, persuaded billionaire investors like Mark Cuban to collectively contribute forthcoming money to the cause.
“It’s a system to fact check certain statements or giving you a flag or indicator about something that may be false. Ultimately we want to empower readers and give them tools to see what’s fake and what’s not,” Ghulati explains.
It’s needed now more than ever. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center last year, 64% of American adults said made-up news stories were causing confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events.
Sixty-two percent of US adults get news on social media, and the most popular fake news stories are shared on Facebook, according to a study by Stanford University. Last year, Facebook was under fire during the 2016 election cycle for circulating fake news stories. Twenty of the best-performing fake news stories generated more than 8 million shares and comments, outperforming the 20-best stories from legitimate news sites, according to BuzzFeed. Critics blamed Facebook, claiming it helped Trump get elected president by allowing the fake political news stories to populate the site. So in March, the social networking platform rolled out a flagging system in which third-party fact checkers could tag individual stories that they found weren’t accurate “disputed.”
Factmata aims to combat the false facts saturating our newsfeeds.
“We hope it’s going to be a new news platform that helps give more context — whether it’s new perspectives, facts that aren’t in the news or an indicator of how credible that news might be,” Ghulati tells Moneyish.
Ghulati plans to tackle false claims on subjects like immigration or the employment rate, and build a broader platform for fact checking beyond individual claims and stats in the news and on social media. The initiative will launch next year most likely as a news platform model reminiscent of Wikipedia or Quora that ingests media content and uses Artificial Intelligence and a community of users fact-checking for quality. Users will eventually be able to drop a news link into the browser and Factmata would give facts on what you’re reading. For example, if it’s a statement that immigration is skyrocketing, AI would surface actual facts from the Bureau of Labor so you can make up your mind if a story is accurate or not.
“I was impressed by the team’s pedigree, technical talent, and sheer drive to solve this problem,” Cuban said in a statement of his decision to invest.
“If we want to solve fake news, thinking about it at web scale via artificial intelligence and automation is the only way. And being outside the media or fact checking world allows them to see the problem in a different way. Factmata is a group of entrepreneurs trying to solve a challenging problem with an amazing mission.”
The Factmata team wouldn’t disclose how much Cuban invested individually, but other big shots on board to fund the project include video game developer Mark Pincus; Ross Mason, the founder of enterprise software company MuleSoft; and spam-filtering company Brightmail founder Sunil Paul.
Like Factmata, other organizations are also working to combat false facts. In April, Google implemented tools on its search engine allowing users to report misleading or offensive content. It also said it would refine its search engine to bring up factual content first and demote low quality sources. And politically speaking, PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up about American politics on a “Truth-O-Meter” that rates statements from true to false. The most ridiculous false claims get the lowest rating, “Pants on Fire.”
And Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched the community-run news outlet Wikitribute earlier this year working as a news hybrid between regular news and Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that lets anyone edit it to verify facts.
Ghulati says the site will be up and running in early January.
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