Meedan launches tools to enable journalists to check for fake news in messaging apps

David Murphy
Facebook has its own system for flagging fake news. The Meedan tools will work across multiple messagig platforms

Journalism technology non-profit Meedan has launched a suite of tools within its Check platform that are designed to enable journalists to fact-check misinformation from private messaging systems.

Developed in collaboration with enterprise messaging startup Smooch, the tools allow journalists to verify or debunk content shared via messaging apps during global elections, natural disasters and other time-sensitive events. They were successfully piloted during the lead-up to the Indian elections, which took place in April and May of this year.

As news-sharing shifts from public forums to private messages, the spread of misinformation on encrypted chat apps is a growing challenge. The new tools have been designed to provide a platform-of-record for fact-checking messaging spaces without compromising the privacy of users.

“Global digital journalism needs better tools for real-time news,” said Ed Bice, Meedan CEO & co-founder. “In our increasingly interconnected world, the most pressing real-time news is captured and shared by citizens, journalists, government officials and anyone with a social media account. Increasingly, this content is being distributed on messaging channels. Verifying and responding to this content requires new forms of journalism, supporting technologies, and focused collaboration at national levels.”

During elections, disasters and other important news events, the public can submit tips or questions – including web links, memes, videos and images – for verification directly from their messaging apps to a collaborating team of citizen journalists, fact-checkers and trusted newsrooms. Once verification has been completed, the result is sent back to the user.

Messages are checked using a combination of computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning. Check automatically recognizes and groups together identical and near-identical requests for image or text verification, meaning fact-checkers don’t need to verify the same submission more than once.

In order to securely connect to all major messaging channels, Check integrated with enterprise messaging platform, Smooch. The Smooch by Zendesk platform – Zendesk acquired Smooch in May – allows businesses to connect with customers over private messaging channels, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, Viber, WeChat, Telegram, Line and SMS using their own software.

“Messaging has become the dominant way we communicate with each other and share news and ideas across private networks,” said Warren Levitan, VP of conversational business at Zendesk. “Just as messaging can spread misinformation, it can also provide a powerful tool for debunking it. We believe Check will become the industry-leading tech platform for fact checking within private messaging channels.”

Using the new suite of tools, users tasked with verification can structure investigations by transparently assigning critical reporting questions and verification tasks to journalists and editors. This supports collaboration on complex verification and news gathering for multi-byline, cross-bureau investigative journalism projects.

They can also create online communities by bringing together teams of reporters or groups of sources under a common platform, and streamline common tasks by working efficiently with virtual assistants able to quickly conduct reverse image searches on submitted media.