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Scientists Have Beaten Elon Musk to a Fake News Solution, And It's Gaining Traction

BEN MCNEIL, METAFACT
28 FEB 2019

As Youtube and Facebook come under increasing scrutiny over the creation of flat-Earther movements and promotion of anti-vaccination content, there's an increasing need for solutions to fight against fake news and scientific misinformation online.

 

Last year Elon Musk got a lot of attention by tweeting his crowd-sourced approach to fixing fake news.

"Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication. Thinking of calling it Pravda …" he said.

It's not just an idea though. According to publicly shared documents, Pravda was incorporated in Delaware on 19 October 2017, with Musk stating that he will work on it once Tesla's issues are behind him.

As others have noted however, these types of popularity scores aren't the best way to source the truth. Reviews can be gamed easily, whether on Google, Yelp or Facebook - remember the fake London restaurant that went to Number 1 on TripAdvisor?

That's why I've got together a group of scientists including Professor Ian Frazer (co-inventor of the HPV vaccine) and launched a platform called Metafact that takes a more scientific approach to Musk's idea - and it is gaining traction.

 

On Metafact, anyone can share an article or ask a question, and over 11,000 verified experts in over 550 fields are invited to share the facts - allowing a much deeper and insightful scientific perspective to news and knowledge.

If I want to check whether climate change is linked with drought or autism and vaccinations - Metafact connects your question to hundreds of independent verified scientists to answer.

Both of these claims have a 100 percent consensus so far amongst 30 researchers, but others like whether intermittent fasting gives you health benefits or whether silver nano-particles in anti-bacterial soap harmful, the scientific consensus is divided so far.  

People can upvote great answers to encourage better answers.

Some of the best answers will also be featured on ScienceAlert as part of an editorial partnership. 

And content is already being removed when scientific claims are not backed up by experts on Metafact. A YouTube video incorrectly claiming that the Belcher's sea snake is the most venomous snake in the world has been taken down after being fact-checked by the site. This is the potential power of people sharing the facts when they see claims being made online.

 

We've now launched a Kickstarter campaign to attract foundation members to help fund scientists to fact-check claims, with more than $10,000 raised so far.

If you want to get involved, we've set up an exclusive early-bird membership offer for ScienceAlert readers for the next 48 hours (you'll find it in the Early-bird Tier' on the Kickstarter campaign). 

Ben McNeil is a long-time climate scientist and Founder of Metafact.io 

Opinions expressed in this article don't necessarily reflect the views of ScienceAlert editorial staff.

Disclaimer: ScienceAlert CEO Fiona MacDonald is a journalistic advisor to Metafact, but has no financial interest in the company.