The term “fake news” may have entered the mainstream consciousness over the last few months, but Stan Motte recognized long ago that disinformation would potentially be a problem. Five years ago, he founded Trooclick, a company that used machine learning to flag fake news. That company evolved into the Paris-based Storyzy, which aims to combat fake news by targeting quotes. We spoke to Motte to learn more about Storyzy and how he hopes to fight fake news.
How did Motte and Storyzy get involved in the fact-checking business?
Motte has worked in media for the last 20 years. Five years ago he predicted fake news would soon become a problem and he founded a company called Trooclick. Trooclick developed a browser add-on, called the “Glitch Spotter,” that flagged fake financial news.
Fake news has always existed, Motte said. But it’s because of social media and recent sensational political events that it’s become an even bigger problem.
“Now every guy you know can share a fake story,” Motte said.
Why did Trooclick become Storyzy?
Eventually Motte and the Trooclick team realized that the growing volume of fake news stories and websites proved to be too great for the Glitch Spotter.
Believing there was no market for fact-checking financial and business news, Motte shut Glitch Spotter down in 2015. Eventually Trooclick evolved into Storyzy and began to focus only on verifying quotes.
Quotes, Motte explained, are easier to handle with machine learning. Unlike a full news story, which can contain half-truths, quotes are generally black or white – they’re either true or not and can be proven easily.
How does the Storyzy Quote Verifier work?
Users can submit any text into the Quote Verifier and the program will then generate a response about whether the quote is authentic, dubious or incomplete. Motte said Storyzy uses 5,000 different sources, predominantly mainstream news websites, from around the world. Fifty percent of quotes are related to politics. Other popular subjects are business and technology.
Motte said the top, most reliable news sources typically use the same quotes from public figures, thus making it easier to determine whether a quote is trustworthy. Currently the most quoted people on Storyzy are Trump, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Sean Spicer.
Who uses Storyzy?
Motte said Storyzy has been useful for individuals who work in journalism, social media and advertising, as well as the general public. Two weeks ago Storyzy launched a partnership with Euronews, through which Euronews uses the Storyzy quote verifier under Euronews branding.
Duncan Hooper, the Digital Editor in Chief of EuronewsNBC, said Storyzy helps Euronews in its mission to provide a range of viewpoints and focus on facts.
“By collecting together what experts and decision makers are saying about certain issues, we are giving information to empower audiences to understand what is happening in their world,” he said.
He also pointed out that since the product uses AI, it doesn’t require resources from Euronews.
What about readers who believe legitimate news sources are “fake”?
Motte joked that there are likely some readers who could hear President Trump speak at the White House and still not believe that he is the source of a quote – his point being that there are some individuals who will always be skeptical of news outlets, despite adequately identifying sources. Storyzy’s Artificial Intelligence allows the program to provide context to verified quotes. Because full transcripts of big speeches are often available online, Storyzy can link back to the original source as evidence, Motte said.
How do we solve fake news?
Motte said there are two methods that must be used to solve the fake news problem. The first is education: news consumers must become media literate.
And the second is money – specifically, programmatic brand advertising. Motte said brands don’t want to be associated with websites that publish fake news. Storyzy’s API allows brands to monitor the sites on which their ads appear for fake content.
“I think it’s like every problem,” he said. “A lot of problems are solved because of the most powerful guy, the richest guy. If we really want to win against fake news, we have to help big brands.”
Bianca Fortis is the associate editor at MediaShift, a founding member of the Transborder Media storytelling collective and a social media consultant. Follow her on Twitter @biancafortis.