Is it really true? FAKE NEWS or not!
The world of information is affected by “fake news” syndrome, so much so that it not just destroys the personal images but also badly impacts the world of business. IAAE salutes the entrepreneurial initiative that aims to provide a solution to this menace…
At a time when fetching authentic news in the market seems too farfetched, startup founders Sagar Kaul, Praveen and Prateek aims to address this very problem through their vision - MetaFact. This is a tool that uses National Language Processing to understand the context of the news articles, blog and social media posts. This process performs cognitive operations including bucketing, indexing, and trust scoring, providing intelligence access to data.
In a quick chat with IAAE Sub-Editor, Gairika Mitra, the founders share the secret recipe to their cuisine. Edited excerpts:
Tell us about the functioning of MetaFact in detail.
MetaFact provides a range of functions aimed at filtering out ‘Claims’ type sentences from a sea of content across the web, which have interrogative, declarative, and other kinds of sentence structures. This is especially useful for the end user, that is, investigative journalists, enabling them to investigate and/or debunk claims at scale.
From the filtered out claims with respective trust scores, our social virality index is provided to journalists to start working on debunking claims with low trust scores. Concept highlights, semantic analysis, and extractive summarization are all provided to help journalists deep dive their search, depending on what they are looking for - a person, organization, location, drug, or crime entity type.
How did you conceive the idea of identifying fake news on an AI-based platform?
It was September 2016 when I received a message from Praveen - COO (Co-founder) and Prateek - CTO (Co-founder) asking if we could have a talk about ways to work on UGC (User Generated Content). During this first meeting, we all agreed that validation was a crucially important part of providing better UGC to newsrooms. And since Praveen and Prateek had already worked with IBM Watson, the obvious next step was to figure how can we leverage this technology in our idea.
This conversation continued for a couple of months while all of us were closely monitoring the US elections, the issue of fake news, and how significant it had become. With our different domain expertise, our brainstorming session took a final shape and MetaFact was born in March 2017, when we were able to create our first blueprint design of the tool. The idea was not to just validate UGC but also give newsrooms the power to detect and monitor fake news in real time sifting through all the data cacophony that’s generated online.
AI technology is a wonderful thing but there is a great deal of misconceptions around it. So for us it was really important to make sure that we have a clear message for journalists, that we are in no way trying to replace them with our tool, but are seeking to empower them. We believe that an optimum combination of AI and human intelligence will yield the best results.
Are you a bootstrapped venture? How do you plan to raise funding in that case?
We are currently in a program run by NDRC (www.ndrc.ie) that comes with an investment of €30,000. NDRC has produced successful startups, like Newswhip, which is the most used tool in newsrooms, including Associated Press, BBC, Guardian etc. We are also the first non-Irish startup to have been selected for the program. Through this program, we have been able to expand our foothold in Europe, and are well on our way to bringing European newsrooms on board as our test pilot clients.
We have actively started looking for seed investments now, as we near the launch of our pilot test tool, which will be released by end of October. We believe and hope that with having well regarded newsrooms on board as our pilot clients will help us in proving the relevance and aptitude of our tool, enabling us to attract significant strategic investments.
What are your plans of scaling up in the near future?
Right from our first discussion regarding the tool, we always knew that the market is global. As things stand now, any English publishing newsroom in the world is a potential client. As a SaaS business, we have the flexibility to sell our tool from any part of the world, but as this is an evolving field it is important to work closely with key stakeholders. We aim to setup our operations in key markets as we scale up.
How would you define your immediate and long-term milestones?
We have done successful POC’s (Proof of Concepts) in India and the US. The immediate goal is to have our pilot tool available for test to our clients with whom we had done the initial POC. This should be achieved by soon. By March, we will be releasing the market ready tool and start our client acquisition for Asian, US, and European markets. We have been designing upgrades for the tool to include the detection and validation of Deep Fake videos, images, and audio, as this is unquestionably the next big challenge that we will see online. We also aim to include crowdsourced wisdom in dealing with online disinformation. We hope to start work on this by August 2019 and have it released later that year.
Lastly, any advice for wannapreneurs?
The most important thing to get started in this journey is to have an idea, an idea you feel confident about, an idea you are convinced will help or add value to existing products, or completely disrupt the market. Hold on to that idea, over time you will work on it, refine it, evolve it, and in some cases completely change it, but never be afraid of doing it. Listen to everyone with an open mind, don’t take criticism personally, and make every failed pitch a motivating step towards getting the weak points sorted out.
Select your team carefully, because these will be the people with whom you’ll be spending next couple of years living and working together day in and out without a break. Be ready to work at odd times and with different time zones. Most importantly, believe in yourself and what you're doing. And on the practical side, make sure your expenditure is sorted for at least two years before you plunge into entrepreneurship.
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