How Chatbots Contribute to ‘Alternative’ News

Now that aritificial intelligence is capable of successfully passing the Turing Test, AI chatbots are making a significant dent in news coverage, and have the potential to spread fake news. More content creators are experimenting with the role that these chatbots can play in swaying public opinion.

Twitter, as well as other social media outlets and websites, use chatbots to generate sales, PR, and advertising. A chatbot could tell you about the weather, curated news coverage, or even just be a ‘person’ to virtually talk to. However, AI chatbots have been a point of contention as not just virtual assistants but as human substitutes. Instead of waiting on the phone to talk to customer service on Nordstrom’s website, you can message your question through text and get the answers you need.

According to Chatbots Magazine, chatbots create artificial conversation through the use of auditory or textual methods, a system based in a computer program. The type of chatbot that utilizes AI technology understands various languages, as well as interprets and learns from conversations as it is used.

Recently AI chatbots played a role in spreading fake news during the 2016 election, according to an xMatters press release. xMatters, an IT communications and operations platform, said, “While 2017 will not be the year that humanoid, Westworld-esque robots work alongside us or take all of our jobs, we will definitely be seeing an even smarter circulation of ‘alternative facts,’ and even greater capabilities from AI in facilitating business processes such as services, software delivery and IT infrastructure changes.”

The key to AI chatbots is that they are built with a purpose. CNN and Facebook Messenger have used chatbots in the past to share content with customers or subscribers. As niche news outlets tap into the power of AI chatbots, more nuances will develop with the type of content each AI chatbot shares.

“During the presidential election campaign an army of automated chatbots, inundated Twitter with propaganda and fake news,” xMatter explained.

With a growing range of chatbot possibilities, how will this transform their role in spreading fake news? xMatters said that AI chatbot technology is still being developed and fine-tuned, however, the fake news problem may be harder to avoid because of its popularity and permeation in today’s media. Since it is a personalized product developed to match the interests of its user, the possibility for partisan media and false information is a potential user hazard.

“Virtual assistants will advance from novelties, status symbols, and small conveniences to indispensable business tools,” according to xMatters. “A large part of this progress will be driven by advances in natural language processing and better user interface options for communication.”

Typically, according to xMatters, people have one of two general responses to the idea of artificial intelligence; either they’re afraid of a potential “Skynet dystopia” or they’re excited for the advances that machine learning and robotics can bring. These advances may give AI chatbots a better ability to filter out fake news, but they may also give AI chatbots less control over the content the share based on programmers’ controls and user-preference.

AI chatbots will only gain more popularity and everyday use. The next step in AI chatbot usage is mixing the convenience of automated response with increased credibility in the news sources used to craft those responses. As AI chatbots get smarter, users will have to wait and see whether they learn to better exclude or escalate their fake news agendas.

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