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World wide web inventor targets fake news

March 13, 2017 | Expert Insights

How does the web inventor plan to tackle ‘alternative facts’?

The web is an open platform that should allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries. The web has lived up largely to this vision. However, due to growing balkanisation and fragmentation, there is constant battle to keep it open.

What is fake news?

The arrival of social media - and the fight for clicks - has meant real and fictional stories are presented in such a similar way that it can be hard to tell the two apart. So-called "fake news" could be false information deliberately circulated by those who have scant regard for the truth but hope to advance particular (often extreme) political causes and make money out of online traffic.

Or it could be false information circulated by journalists who don't realise it's false.


Significant fake news stories can be traced back to Octavian's 1st century campaign of misinformation against Mark Antony and the forged 8th century Donation of Constantine, which supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope.

Throughout World War II, both the Axis and the Allies employed fake news in the form of propaganda to persuade publics at home and in enemy countries. The British Political Warfare Executive used radio broadcasts and distributed leaflets to discourage German troops.


  • It will be necessary to work with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology like personal “data pods, a personalised form of storing data”.
  • Gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook must be encouraged to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is “true” or not.
  • More transparent algorithms are required to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made.
  • It is also important to fight against government over-reach in surveillance laws.


An achievable goal should be to explore how we could use technology including artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning and natural language processing to combat the fake news problem. AI technologies hold promise for significantly automating parts of the procedure human fact checkers use today to determine if a story is real or a hoax.