“Media literacy should be our focus now.” fact-checkers on the front lines of disinformation are wary of ChatGPT

“We’ve already been doing so much to counter fake stories, but it’s only going to get harder, so the best we can do is stay ahead of the game. With or without AI, one thing we really need to do as fact-checkers is educate people.” – Shelly Walia, Executive Editor, The Quint

Fact checkers have been busy for several years. The deluge of information about COVID-19 and climate change has included rumours, misinformation and disinformation about every dimension of these challenges.

To help reporters, editors and newsrooms identify emerging trends in misinformation and keep their journalism practices current, Temasek Foundation’s WAN-IFRA journalism program recently hosted a webinar on health and science misinformation trends to explore strategies to clean up the information ecosystem. and share tools that journalists and newsrooms can use in the ongoing fight for truth.

Panelists included Rachel Blandy, APAC head of digital research at AFP in Hong Kong; Shelley Walia, Executive Editor, The Quint, India and Summer Chen, Editor-in-Chief, FactCheck Center, Taiwan, Taipei. The conversation was moderated by Fergus Bell, Co-Founder and CEO of Fathm and Lead Journalist Program.

Over the past three years, all of the panelists’ organizations have developed strategies and interventions to counter the growing ecosystem of misinformation. Now Open AI and ChatGPT have entered the mix. And fact checkers are concerned.

“We are worried that ChatGPT will allow misinformation to spread much faster and conspiracies to be translated much faster as well. So we worry that misinformation will go viral and spread globally faster than before,” says Summer Chen. Taiwan’s FactCheck Center has debunked its first ChatGPT story, a dialogue shared by the ruling party on ChatGPT. “This is the first time for us to deny ChatGPT rumours. We are very concerned and hope that Microsoft and the Open AI team can work with journalists and fact-checkers to help them use this new technology.”

AFP’s Blundi believes that “media literacy is where we need to focus”, if only because any AI effective at countering this misinformation may take some time to develop, and is still needed there will be human fact checkers to apply.

“I can see how it could expand or extend what we do and maybe be used to have more reach within our organization, but I haven’t seen evidence that it’s sophisticated enough to do the job of human fact-checking.” : We have a lot of people working on fact-checking. there are at least two rounds of editing, not one person.”

The Quint’s Walia believes that the rapid growth of ChatGPT will only accelerate the spread of false information, and attempts to mitigate this may fail. “We’ve already been doing so much to counter stories, but it’s only going to get harder, so the best we can do is stay ahead of the game. With or without AI, one thing we really need to do as fact checkers is educate people to start taking information with a pinch of salt. We need to develop media literacy about the prevalence of error and misinformation so that people stop falling for false narratives and can take a step back and use critical thinking to evaluate information.

“There is also ample evidence to suggest that artificial intelligence can be racially biased and xenophobic. This will turn into more problems unless it can be nipped in the bud so that it is more beneficial than harmful.”

To keep journalists up-to-date, there is a new volume of the news guide, Journalism in the Age of Pandemics, produced as part of this. Temasek Foundation’s WAN-IFRA Journalism Program. Request a copy.

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