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Fact-checking charity Full Fact has been awarded a $2 million (£1.6 million) grant by Google’s AI Impact Challenge to help them in its efforts to combat misinformation online.

The programme is part of Google’s $25m (£20m) project to show how artificial intelligence can address societal challenges. Twenty organisations from six continents secured grant funding and expert AI coaching from Google.

Mevan Babakar, head of automated fact-checking, Full Fact, said the pressure is on their team due to the increased amount of political activity in Britain and the misinformation that comes with it. She said AI will bring welcome respite.

"One of the great things about this grant is that it buys us time," she explained. "As fact-checkers, you can imagine we're quite resource-strapped.

"But we also don't necessarily have the time to be focusing on bigger problems, or things that require just a bit more space and thinking. Defining AI problems in this space really does take up a concerted amount of effort."

Its applications also extend to identifying the most widely-spread claims and giving priority to fact-checking those.

"Right now, we as fact-checkers have to make a decision every single day about what is the most valuable thing to be fact-checking," Babakar said.

"We make that decision based on very limited information, based on monitoring data that we have, and we make a judgement off the back of that. We definitely could make smarter choices.

“If you're looking at millions and millions of sentences that have come out in the last 24 hours, you can see which claims that have been repeated the most in that 24 hours.

"That allows us to use our very limited manual fact-checking capabilities to be deployed much more carefully and sensibly so we actually stop the pieces of misinformation that are doing the most harm."

Babakar said that the work they do, alongside Africa Check and Argentine fact-checkers Chequeado, is more important than ever before.

"Regardless of whether there's more misinformation or not, there's definitely been more examples of misinformation really hurting people's lives.

"We see outbreaks of anti-vaxx information and that has led to measles outbreaks and lives actually being destroyed as a result."

Babakar also hopes that, beyond mobilising other fact-checkers, the grant will help build a relationship with the computer science community.

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