Besides all the official pages of TV channels or other well-recognised means of communication, certain websites post fake news, which may lead people to create a misrepresented idea of the facts.
In a bid to combat fake news, in Portugal, people may confirm the veracity of news in a website called “O Polígrafo”. However, to further the combat misinformation in the country a Portuguese start-up called The Newsroom works as a plugin on browsers, to help people to know if what they are reading is real.
The Portugal News interviewed one of the people responsible for the start-up, Jenny Romano, to understand how the Artificial Intelligence (AI) plug-in work will.
TPN: How did you come up with the idea of creating The Newsroom?
Jenny Romano: Recent history has shown us how pervasive and urgent the issue of mis and disinformation is and how deep its consequences can be. While we started working officially on our project at the end of 2020, we have been brainstorming and educating ourselves on misinformation and potential solutions for three years, while working in technology companies and realising how technology can amplify misinformation, but most importantly how it can be used for good to tackle it. Our shared experience is what is behind our mission - fighting misinformation and promoting plurality online - and we keep it at the core of everything we do at The Newsroom.
TPN: When did The Newsroom services become available?
JR: We released the first version of our technology, a Minimum Viable Product, at the end of July 2021. We have been iterating on our product since then thanks to the feedback of our brilliant early testers, and we are about to release our first open beta product, a browser extension that will provide users with a transparent assessment of the trustworthiness of online news. For the time being the extension is available for English news, but we are planning to expand it to five extra languages in the next 18 months - Portuguese included.
TPN: How do the AI functions may work in people’s devices?
JR: Our first product is a browser extension, and it will be available by mid-December. As a user, you’ll be browsing through your news feed and get an instant assessment of the trustworthiness of what you are reading, surfaced as our logo that will be colour coded. By hovering over it, you’ll get a detailed and fully transparent assessment of the five components we consider: Source, Author, References, Key Claims, and Information Positioning.
TPN: How can people enjoy The Newsroom services?
JR: For the time being, readers can head to thenewsroom.ai and sign up for our upcoming release. We will notify them first once our extension is publicly available.
TPN: How important is the services of The Newsroom in a time where fake news is “invading” social media, especially?
JR: Over the past five years we have had plenty of opportunities to witness first-hand how pervasive the issue of misinformation is, and how urgent it is to tackle it, as well as to build plurality. We often consume information in platforms that drive us further apart rather than closer together, and this, paired with inaccurate or highly biased information, leads to the polarization we are all living in today. The Newsroom or any other company won’t solve this alone: we need all parties - technology companies, civil society, governments, publishers - to cooperate towards the common goal of building a more solid and inclusive society, based on healthy debate rather than outrage.
TPN: What are the plans for the future of your start-up?
JR: Our vision at The Newsroom is to develop an information ecosystem that is inclusive by design, built on the values of trust and healthy debate. The milestone we are about to hit is the release of the public extension. Early next year, we’ll be releasing a mobile application working on news discovery - it will offer a snapshot of current affairs, as well as the opportunity to deep dive into historical context and current context, to inform users about what are the key events that led to the news we’re reading today, as well as how different publishers are talking about the same issue, what are the differences and most importantly what is common ground. More broadly, it is our objective to build a healthy company with a clear, quantifiable impact on society and the media industry. We are working towards our hiring goals, and we find it a crucial element: we will do our best to onboard people who joined our company driven by our mission and decided to stay because it is a brilliant place to learn, grow and lead with purpose - everything else will follow.
The most important tool to avoid believing in misinformation or fake news is mediatic literacy, which means, the capacity of people to define whether a piece of information is fake or not. The Portuguese government has already created a platform, called O Leme, that may be used at schools to teach students how to identify fake information.
To understand if an article posted online or on paper is fake, readers should be aware of features such as the used source, that may be reliable, for example, news agencies or certified statistical data.