Fact Watch, an initiative of Media Studies and Journalism (MSJ) department at University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) to counter fake news, organised a seminar at ULAB Campus B on July 26. Dr Naeemul Hassan, an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi in USA, conducted the seminar, titled “Towards Automated Fact-checking”. Prof Imran Rahman, special advisor to Board of Trustees (BoT) of ULAB, delivered the welcome speech. He underscored the need for learning the required skills to properly search correct information on the internet. To him, people in Bangladesh are yet to know how to properly use Google.
Following that, Dr Naeemul had an enlightening session, opening up new avenues of automated fact-checking. He said the traditional method of fact-checking would not last long due to the prominence of social media these days. In fact, 63 fact-checking sites had to be shut down as they could not modify their method, he said. There are now 2.16 billion Facebook users, he said. So, paid advertisement, news and fabricated images spread through social media have the potential to reach out to a vast audience, added Dr Naeemul. As a result, the traditional method of fact-checking is losing its appeal day by day, he observed. Therefore, he introduced a new sustainable model, named “ClaimBuster” — a platform to monitor live streams, websites, and social media to catch factual claims, detect matches with a curated repository of fact-checks, and deliver the matches instantly to viewers. He also introduced the audience “BaitBuster” — another initiative designed to detect clickbait contents.
Regarding Bangladesh, he said there were many hurdles, for instance, the lack of media literacy, infrastructure and resources. However, he is hopeful that the government’s a2i (Access to Information) project will change the situation. The researcher also underscored the need for collaboration among the three “prominent” fact-checking sites in Bangladesh — Fact Watch, Jachai and BD Fact Check.
Lastly, Dr Naeemul urged the audience to verify online contents before sharing, and think before clicking. Following that, he answered a number of questions from the audience. In his concluding speech, Fact Watch adviser Dr Sumon Rahman, also a professor of MSJ, spoke of the challenges of running a fact-checking site in Bangladesh.