The Leaders Prize at True North 2019: $1M Prize for Using AI to Combat Fake News
“The Leaders Prize at True North is a national competition that challenges Canadian thinkers and doers to solve a major societal or industry problem of global proportion and consequence.”
The Waterloo region in Ontario has long been the hub of innovation in Canada. It is also home to the Canadian wing of the Thomson Reuters Labs. TR Labs are the company’s technology pathfinders and specialists in emerging technologies such as data science, analytics, data visualization, AI and blockchain. The Labs operate globally and act as the business’s gateway and connection into start-up communities around the world.
The goal of the year-long competition is to solve major societal or industry problems using AI in two phases:
1) to identify facts and whether they are true or false; and,
2) to prove whether the information identified is accurate.
The winner, to be announced in June 2020, will be awarded CAD$1 million.
The Fake News Challenge
With the growing amount of misinformation circulated on social media, the Leaders Prize challenge will focus on fact-checking and debunking fake news. In a survey conducted by Statista to assess the perception of fake news generated from online news sources, 52% of respondents indicated that they believed online sources regularly publish fake news.
Today, Thomson Reuters utilizes AI tools that leverage social media to separate fact from fiction and enable our journalists to identify breaking news events. Hazel Baker, Global Head of User-Generated Content Newsgathering at Reuters, stated the following regarding the problem of deep fakes in particular:
“As technology advances, so does the range of ways material can be manipulated. One new threat on the horizon is the rise of so-called ‘deepfakes’ – a startlingly realistic new breed of AI-powered altered videos. These ‘deepfakes’ (the term a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake”) are created by taking source video, identifying patterns of movement within a subject’s face, and using AI to recreate those movements within the context of a target piece of video.”
Alphonse Hardel, Reuters Global Head of Business Development and Strategy, also expressed the importance of propelling fact-checking abilities for user generated content. Hardel said, “AI could play a role in helping to verify information, and Reuters would be well placed to support this with its unbiased, fact-rich content.”
AI Across True North
The Leaders Prize was one of many segments highlighting the current landscape of AI development at the True North conference. The legal industry in particular has seen a recent upsurge in the application and usage of AI to support everything from highly proficient research and document analysis, to machine learned summarization tools.
During the True North conference, TR Labs hosted a customer engagement evening at the Communitech Data Hub to highlight the areas in the legal industry where AI is playing a key role. The core topics focused on AI in fighting crime and protecting data privacy, as well as looking at fairness in AI. Thomson Reuters has been phasing machine learning and AI into its products for over 20 years.
The Labs emphasized how data can be biased in terms of whether it is representative or unrepresentative of a population and how it can become “accidentally” biased by improper labeling or cleaning. Conversely, AI solutions are now being developed to detect bias in data, and data scientists are being trained to recognize ethical conflicts in AI solutions, where the optimal recommendation may not be societally accepted.
During the session, Antonio Zappulla, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, discussed the potential for AI in fighting human trafficking and the possibility that these tools could be used in analyzing patterns in web content for indicators of human trafficking activity. AI is already seen as a useful tool in battling the growth of labour, sex and organ trafficking worldwide.
AI continues to be a driving force in the way we all view technology. The Leaders Prize is a prime example of the ways we can continue to encourage Canadian entrepreneurs to take risks and further innovate using AI solutions. As a proud partner, Thomson Reuters is looking forward to working closely with the teams throughout this year-long competition as they strive to develop the most effective AI solutions to automate the fact-checking process.
The Leaders Prize is open to Canadian residents. For more information, go to https://leadersprize.truenorthwaterloo.com/en.