Opinion: Social Media Lie Detector

Albert Fisler is a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Albert Fisler

Facebook and Twitter dominate the social media world and allow people to connect, talk and share information from all around the world.  It’s easy to see how the truth can easily be stretched as people play the “telephone game” using the Web — one person says something, and the information becomes distorted and further from the truth as each person tells the next, putting their own spin on it. In addition, there are many Facebook and Twitter accounts dedicated to misinformation and falsehood.  

However, there is no need to fear these online accounts of lies, as the European Union is now funding a social-media lie detector. According to the University of Sheffield, where the main research for this lie detector is taking place, the system will automatically categorize sources to assess their authority, such as news outlets, individual journalists, experts, potential eyewitnesses, members of the public or automated “bots.” This system will also search for sources that corroborate or deny the information and plot how the conversations on social networks evolve, using all of this information to assess whether it is true or false.  

The big push for this lie detector came after the 2011 London riots, during which false information was spread on the Internet, such as claims that all the animals were released from the London Zoo. Many of these false claims had policemen and other emergency services rushing to respond, only to find out it was a hoax.  

Nevertheless, if this system proves useful and becomes official, I could see how too many people would rely on it as a legitimate basis on deciding whether something is true or not. If this does become a respected technology, then there might come a point when people will simply rely on whatever this lie detector says to judge the truth for them, rather than delving deeper and researching to find their own answers.  

The truth is supposed to be universal, but lies can bend any which way to look like the truth. If we are to accept an official statement of truth without question, will we ever know if the lie detector lies?