Researchers Built an 'Online Lie Detector.' Honestly, That Could Be a Problem


The internet is full of lies. That maxim has become an operating assumption for any remotely skeptical person interacting anywhere online, from Facebook and Twitter to phishing-plagued inboxes to spammy comment sections to online dating and disinformation-plagued media. Now one group of researchers has suggested the first hint of a solution: They claim to have built a prototype for an "online polygraph" that uses machine learning to detect deception from text alone. But what they've actually demonstrated, according to a few machine learning academics, is the inherent danger of overblown machine learning claims. In last month's issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior, Florida State University and Stanford researchers proposed a system that uses automated algorithms to separate truths and lies, what they refer to as the first step toward "an online polygraph system--or a prototype detection system for computer-mediated deception when face-to-face interaction is not available."

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