Protecting businesses from fake news stories

This month, I was invited to appear on Sky News to discuss the impact of fake news stories – and our recent £5.8 million funding round – with Ian King. Our conversation was fascinating but all too short, and I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the themes we mentioned during the show.

Fake news stories have been at the centre of several controversies this year. Many of these incidents have been cultural – from misinformation surrounding terrorists attacks, to the manipulation of voters in the US election, to Pizzagate. But many people are are extremely worried about the potential impact of fake news on businesses too.

Businesses have always relied on information advantages to succeed, and in recent years technology has been used to deliver that advantage. But have organisations become too reliant on high-speed information? We’ve seen many ‘flash crashes’ in recent years which have been caused by high-frequency trading. Now fake news is beginning to heavily impact share prices too. Just last month, a fake press release briefly wiped 18% off construction company Vinci’s share price. Viral fake news has the potential to be catastrophic for the fortunes of affected companies, damaging a company’s reputation and bottom line.

How technology can provide a solution

My interview on Sky News primarily concerned the impact of technology on fake news stories. To me, there is little doubt that technology has played a important role in creating this problem. Increasing personalisation on the web has created individual ‘filter bubbles’, a concept discussed in a 2011 Ted Talk by Eli Pariser. Essentially, he says: “The internet is showing us the things it thinks we want to see, without showing us the things we need to see”. And when people see things that fit with their previous assumptions, they are more inclined to believe and share that information – even when it might be false.

But while technology may have been a cause of fake news, I believe it also has a fundamental role to play in the solution. Just as technology has been misused to spread misinformation, it can equally put trustworthy data in front of people first, prioritising verifiable information over fake news.

That’s why Signal’s system focuses principally on the most reliable news sources, prioritising accuracy and relevance. We partner with reputable publishers like Reuters and Dow Jones, making sure that our clients access the highest-quality information out there. We make sure that our customers have the flexibility to see what matters to them, saving them time and helping them make better decisions faster.

But just having high-quality information isn’t enough. During our on-air chat, Ian and I discussed the fact that the business climate has transitioned out of the 24-hour news cycle, with organisations having to react to breaking news in real time. If false information is not identified quickly, it can dramatically impact companies, their clients and the markets – as we saw in the case of Vinci.

Signal gathers, analyses and classifies breaking news in seconds. We process thousands of contextual variables and factors instantly, combating fake news with more precision and effectiveness than any human system. We prioritise the news sources which really add value, and which contribute to our clients’ strategic decision-making.

Bursting filter bubbles

London and the UK is becoming one of the leading AI and deep tech ecosystems. The time is ripe for further technological investment to help minimise the impact of fake news on businesses. Continuing to develop our core AI technology – a primary driver behind our recent funding round – is therefore essential. If we can alert executives to irrelevant or misleading news before it impacts the business cycle, fake news stories will be easier to manage and combat. We can’t wait to collaborate with the tech community and businesses alike to improve our offering.

Eli Pariser talks about the internet giving you what you want, and not what you need. At Signal, we are committed to giving people the information they didn’t know they needed, as well as the stuff they know they want. There is no question that fake news stories and filter bubbles pose severe threats to people and businesses. But helping our clients react to threats and opportunities is exactly why Signal exists. Our funding will allow us to expand our world-class team of data scientists and develop even more accurate and sophisticated solutions – keeping businesses safe, share prices stable, and reputations secure.

Explore Signal’s solutions in more detail; see how you can control your news coverage more effectively.