The Information Age has created an increasing abundance of data and has, thanks to the rise of the Internet, made that knowledge instantly available to humans and computers alike. However, when different sources make contradictory claims and each may have their own, sometimes hidden, motivations in providing them, we don’t know what to believe--in other words, is information "trustworthy"
The area of “information trustworthiness” is being researched by Dr. Dan Roth, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, with support of a Faculty Research Award from Google. Roth says, “ideally we would like to identify those sources, documents and facts we would trust if we had the time and ability to consider all the information that is available. Then we can select which news article, report or, more importantly, which on-line medical advice to believe.”
Roth's work will be in the development of a mechanism for determining trust that can be reliably substituted for the user's own informed judgment, even in domains where being fully informed is humanly-infeasible (i.e. one cannot read every document on the web, but we can still use Google to search them). We must also determine exactly what we mean by trustworthiness of information and formalize the problem so that meaningful evaluation and comparison with other approaches is possible.
Here is a example of the type of problem that we have when discerning the “trustworthiness of information”. What if one author claims Mumbai is the largest city in the world, and another claims it is Seoul; who do we believe? One or both authors could be intentionally lying, honestly mistaken, or just have different viewpoints of what constitutes a “city”. Is it the city ‘proper’ or does it include the metropolitan area? Truth, in this case, is not objective: there may be many valid definitions of “city”, but we should believe the claim that accords with our user's viewpoint
Trustworthiness of information is a problem our society needs to address. As computer scientists, we have to begin developing a principled approach to this difficult problem. There are multiple challenges here, from the problem of retrieving relevant evidence, to that of dealing with conflicting claims, to developing a level of trust that agrees with one’s subjective beliefs and common sense knowledge.
Dr. Roth is the director of a Department of Homeland Security funded center that is investigating solutions to this and other problems dealing with huge amounts of information. The Multimodal Information Access & Synthesis Center brings together some of the world’s leading experts in data sciences discover new technologies for extracting and tracking interesting events, entities and relations from multimodal information sources.