There are many numbers in the news – oil prices, stock prices, pre-election poll results. And many have a certain degree of inaccuracy – some of are outdated, some could be intentionally misleading. The consequences are the same – disinformation, manipulated opinions, burdens in decision-making. This is exactly the issue that Boyan Benev’s tool Quantum Computing Visualization aims to tackle, and Google has just backed the prototype through its Digital News Innovation Fund.
“The project will be one of the first practical applications of quantum computing, allowing us to visualize inaccuracies in data. By providing this extra layer of information, our aim is to help readers make more informed conclusions on the news they consume,” explains Benev, who is also the founder of the AI service company SHYN.
What’s the chance?
Quantum computing might sound abstract and complex, but the very basic idea is that it has the potential to accelerate computational power and efficiency. Simply said, it could potentially allow a machine to make more calculations simultaneously and better calculate probabilities and variation. In this particular case, the quantum computational power will be used to calculate all the factors that interfere with the reported numbers and might affect their accuracy, in order to show to what extent they are relevant and trustworthy.
The prototype, which Benev and his team of four aim to build, is a visual tool that is directly integrated with news outlets platforms. To the users, the tool would only show a dot above every number mentioned in articles and content pieces – the larger the dot, the greater the inaccuracy. On the back end, the system would take each number to process it through a model that contains all the factors that could interfere with the accuracy of the piece of data. The model is then processed through a cloud-based quantum computing power (IBM, D-Wave,Rigetti provide such – ed. note) and comes back to the users’ binary computer screen.
Early supporters: Google, Netinfo and AWS
“Right now, everything is based on our initial hypothesis, but if it works it could be one of the few practical applications of quantum computing,” says Benev, whose team is currently working on the architecture of the system. Benev received €50K from Google’s DNI Fund to develop the prototype tool. His team has also partnered with digital media company Netinfo, who will test the product, and has received the support of €30K in form of services from Amazon Web Services.
Once ready, Benev is planning to offer the tool to media companies and other enterprise clients such as consultancy enterprises like Deloitte and McKinsey that produce a lot of data-powered content. “It could even be used internally to make decisions which data is accurate enough to appear in reports and analysis”, he adds. The founder also sees the potential to develop a plugin for consumers.
Another DNI backed startup in Bulgaria
The DNI Fund is a European program, part of the Google News Initiative, which aims to support journalism development in the digital age. It has four key areas: battling misinformation, telling local stories, boosting digital revenues and exploring new technologies. Projects in three main stages of development are funded – prototypes (with up to €50K), medium (€250K) and large (up to €500K). In the past three years, the Fund has awarded more than €140M to 662 ambitious projects in digital journalism in 30 countries.
Last year, for the first time DNI funded a local startup – Damocles Analytics. Ruben Seoane founded the venture to shed some light over manipulative news and out of frustration with the way political system in his home country Spain worked, he explained to us. In 2017, in Bulgaria, he started working on a new generation platform that automates profiling of public figures, finds connections between world events, their opinion and actions, drawing from personality, emotional and thinking patterns.
Since its start in 2015, the fund has backed two large projects in Bulgaria – one of Economedia and one of Investor Media Group.
Is Google really so journalism friendly?
Even though the DNI fund has contributed to the creation of such a large number of journalism tools and new media companies, some other actions cannot be neglected. One of the latest discussion around the new Copy Right regulations in the European Union shows inconsistency with Google’s journalism support line. It was about a change in the directives, in particular – Article 11 that is supposed to protect copyright for press publishers (a.k.a make Google pay media companies when using snippets of their content). In February, in a blog post Kent Walker, SVP Global Affairs at Google, stated that the draft was unbalanced and could have “unintended consequences”. The warning between the lines was that Google will not pay media companies for the use of their snippets in the search results and forecasts dramatically fewer views (Trending Topics reported).