Wed, Oct 11, 2017 - Page 12 News List

China gets billions of fake news claims, Baidu says

Bloomberg

From Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos to former Microsoft Corp chief executive Steve Ballmer, US tech executives have sought in recent days to dispel the notion there is a swift solution to the proliferation of spurious or insidious information on the Internet, a phenomenon critics said wields an outsized and unhealthy influence on public discourse and elections.

Baidu Inc (百度) president Zhang Yaqin (張亞勤) said China faces similar challenges, despite operating one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated online surveillance machines.

Companies in China, where freedom of speech is curtailed by censorship programs, have long used a mix of advanced technologies and human cybercops to police the Internet.

Baidu, China’s largest search engine, employs technology to spot potentially false information before turning to local agencies such as the Cyberspace Administration of China to verify items. One of the country’s three largest Internet players, it checks 3 billion claims of fake news every year.

“Every year we see somewhere around 3 billion claims, requests that we need to verify that might turn out to be fake news,” Zhang said. “We’re using a combination of technology and content authorization to minimize the fake news.”

From Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊) to Sina Corp’s (新浪) Weibo (微博), China’s social media employ technology and armies of vetters to scour its services for undesirable content, which goes beyond rumors and unsubstantiated claims to include any and all information deemed harmful to social stability.

Yet, even the best-funded online operators have difficulty keeping up: China’s cybercops last month fined Tencent, Weibo and Baidu for carrying illegal content.

Days later, Weibo began recruiting and rewarding “supervisors” from among its own users to report problems.

“We have an obligation to make sure the user gets good content, but it continues to be a challenge for us, for other companies in China and companies in the US,” Zhang said.

The problem persists despite China having some of the strictest rules aimed at preventing the spread of “false news.”

It recently established regulations forcing forum-posters to register with their real identities and its laws threaten jail time for posting defamatory false information, Weibo’s latest annual report said.

However, Zhang said fixing the problem required the use of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and even closer cooperation with relevant government regulators.

Pressure is building on social media services from Google to Twitter to try and curb the proliferation of fake news and targeted ads.

Stamos last week said it was very difficult to spot fake news and propaganda using computer programs.

Executives from Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc are scheduled to testify before US Congress on Nov. 1 about Russian use of their sites to influence last year’s US presidential election — a hot-button topic that the social media and Internet services are under pressure to address.

Stamos, who is handling Facebook’s investigation, said that technical solutions could have unintended consequences of ideological bias.

“I’m not sure you can say that is Facebook’s job, they’re not in the news business, they pass along other people’s news,” Ballmer said. “Same thing with Google. ”

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