Facebook Replacing Snopes with AI for Fact-Checking Over 'Credibility Concerns'
Facebook invests millions in new software as it moves to drop shady 'fact-checkers'
In Facebook's latest move to filter "unwanted" content from its platform, the company has acquired a British AI firm to replace the shady "fact-checking" services it currently employs to filter out "fake news."
As Snopes' credibility as a reliable "arbiter of truth" sinks to all-time lows, the social media giant is making moves to distance itself from the suspicious reputation of the money-hungry, liberal-bias websites it currently uses.
In December, the Daily Mail published a bombshell report exposing Snopes founder and CEO David Mikkelson of embezzling company funds to spend on prostitutes.
The report also revealed that Mikkelson placed a female escort on the company payroll and treated her to all-expenses-paid vacations on the firm's expense account, according to Mikkelson's ex-wife in their divorce proceedings.
The site's main "fact-checker" Kimberly LaCapria, stated in her blog "ViceVixen" that she is in touch with her "domme side" and regularly posts "fact checks" on highly sensitive articles for Snopes.com while high from smoking pot.
As a result, Snopes' credibility has plummeted, with social media users sharing memes that make a mockery of the so-called "fact-checkers" as users become frustrated with having their News Feed filtered out by someone like David Mikkelson and his questionable moral compass.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder, and CEO of Facebook is a proud family man and regularly discusses his legacy and the impact his company has on society for the sake of his own children.
Clearly, Zuckerberg is keen to keep Snopes from dragging Facebook's reputation down into the gutter and is now moving to replace human fact-checking with sophisticated artificial intelligence software.
According to a report by CNBC, Facebook is buying a British AI firm to help tackle fake news, in what would be a notable change of strategy for the social media site as it continues to face content issues.
The acquisition of London-based Bloomsbury AI would cost only $30 million at the upper end of reported estimates, but could signal Facebook is now looking outside the company to round out its own efforts.
Facebook declined to comment.
Bloomsbury AI develops natural language tools for question-and-answer functionality.
The company's product, Cape, reads text documents and answers questions about the content, including questions that involve reasoning and synthesis, according to the start-up's site.
William Tunstall-Pedoe, who was instrumental in the development of Amazon’s AI-powered digital assistant Alexa, is also an angel investor in Bloomsbury.
Multiple sources say Facebook is paying between $23 million and $30 million to acquire Bloomsbury AI, in a deal that will see a mixture of cash and stock change hands.
In one scenario, the startup’s investors will receive around $5.5 million, with Bloomsbury’s founding team in line for the remaining $17.5 million, paid in restricted Facebook stock.
Either way, this represents a modest return for the bulk of investors, although EF — given that it invests pre-seed — is likely to have had a larger multiple.
Given the price and the stage Bloomsbury AI were at, the acquisition also has more than a whiff of acqui-hire to it, although there is some IP in the deal.
One source confirmed that Bloomsbury AI’s CTO/Head of Research, Sebastian Riedel, was the biggest draw.
He is considered to be a leading expert in the area of NLP, and is a professor at UCL.
According to his LinkedIn, he also co-founded and is an advisor to Factmata, the U.K. startup that purports to have developed tools to help brands combat “fake news”.
Indeed, a source who claims to have some knowledge of Facebook’s intentions says the U.S. tech giant may be planning to put the Bloomsbury AI team on the task of helping it develop technology to fight fake news on the platform and solve other aspects of its glaring moderation problem.
Other areas of Facebook’s product that might benefit from the Q&A technology that powers Cape include being used as a workplace tool for companies to discover content in documents, or on Facebook’s consumer offering as a way of significantly improving its search and knowledge-base functionality.
It is also understood that Bloomsbury AI being based in London was a factor, as Facebook aims to have an AI presence in the U.K. capital city and is thought to be sourcing further acquisitions here.
Multiple sources have confirmed the deal, although Facebook declined to comment.