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Forum: Bias detection crucial to today’s decision-making

How new programs and apps sniff out social media bias and ‘fake news’ using sentiment analysis.

Carol OzemhoyaBy Carol Ozemhoya

The big buzz word phrase nowadays is “fake news,” and it seems people are more confused than ever on what news sources to trust, whether it’s TV news broadcasts (local and network), newspapers or the Internet, especially social media.

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous players have learned how to use all of these news sources to scramble the truth, as well as straight out lie to throw the public on a course of their choice, whether it hurts the economy, the public perception of politicians, politics and high-profile situations or not. What people, including financiers, regular “Joes” and “Jills,” and business executives may not realize is that there are now programs and apps available that can help citizens detect media bias as well as so-called fake news items.

Bias detection can be assessed through sentiment analysis (a form of artificial intelligence), which uses social media and news stories to determine just how “offbeat” something – a story or a post – can be. These highly accurate programs can detect the attitude of the elements in the story or post (including the author), as well as the type of reaction – emotional and otherwise – which the post is hoping to convey.

The attitude may be a judgment or evaluation of something or a person, affective state (the emotional state of the author or the speaker) or the intended emotional communication (the intended emotional affect). Millennials seem to especially be the target of these posts, as they make up a huge voting block and represent huge financial clout.

Detecting Sentiment Has Become Increasingly Important

There are companies that have diligently developed some tools to assist in detecting media bias. One of the things this involves is “opinion mining.” According to Bizcommunity.com, this is “the science of using text analysis to understand the drivers behind public sentiment.”

In today’s high-stakes world, this is becoming increasingly important for executives that handle financial decisions for those just investing mere thousands as well as those with millions and even billions to put at risk (let’s be real – there is really no such investment that is a “sure thing”).

Why is it important to gather sentiments (including emotions and opinions)? “Gather enough opinions – and analyze them correctly – and you’ve got an accurate gauge of the feelings of the silent majority,” says JP Kloppers of Bizcommunity. This relates not only to how people feel, “but the drivers underlying why they feel the way they do.”

The mined data can be used to help a company pinpoint how it’s doing in the global marketplace, or a financial analyst can use it to gauge more closely what the immediate future holds for a stock. This, of course, can translate into millions of dollars of profit and even to stymie losses.

It’s a huge tool for those smart enough – actually hip enough – to put to use in their everyday operations, especially at analysis and management levels. That applies to political movements, as well as simple customer service agendas for fast-food joints. Detecting media bias will become the “in” tool on a massive scale for anyone determined to make a campaign or product a resounding success.

How It’s Done

The arts of artificial intelligence are developing rapidly among some key players in this highly concentrated world. Mining data (including media stories and posts) and analyzing it has become the focal point, for example, of Houston-based Indexer. The firm has an API (application program interface) that is designed to identify the current state of media opinion on specific subject matter as expressed as a cross-sectional visualization of sentiment polarity (emotion) and subjectivity (opinion) associated with the named entities inside of the news articles people read.

In other words, researchers can apply specific programs to understand the “fair and balanced” nature of the news content chosen to be reviewed. In fact, researchers can answer the question: Are media sources such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC biased news organizations?

It may sound complicated, but the mechanisms being developed and those already available can feed decision-makers and analysts more accurate information, and in the long run, save a firm from heavy losses or help create new gains in marketplaces around the world, big and small.

Carol Ozemhoya is a writer at Indexer, a tech start-up in the artificial intelligence space with a focus on computer vision and natural language processing technologies.

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