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Are You Smarter Than A.I.?: Fact Check ChatGPT

Artificial Intelligence Can Make Mistakes Too

ChatGPT and similar tools are not above making mistakes. When you ask ChatGPT a question or prompt it for some output, it pulls from the information and data that it has been fed. If there are errors in that information, or if it doesn't have access to the latest data, it may return inaccurate, made up, or misleading information.  This article provides a good, non technical overview of how ChatGPT works.  Here's a few excerpts from the article explaining why ChatGPT and A.I. may produce incorrect information. 

Why do they get stuff wrong?

Because they learn from the internet. Think about how much misinformation and other garbage is on the web. These systems also don’t repeat what is on the internet word for word. Drawing on what they have learned, they produce new text on their own, in what A.I. researchers call a “hallucination.”  This is why the chatbots may give you different answers if you ask the same question twice. They will say anything, whether it is based on reality or not...   It is just generating text using patterns that it found on the internet. In many cases, it mixes and matches patterns in surprising and disturbing ways.

Excerpts from: Metz, Cade. "Why Chatbots Sometimes Act Weird and Spout Nonsense." New York Times, Feb 16, 2023

Here are some examples of how AI has produced less than accurate information.Girl sitting at laptop with a chatbot on the screen.

As with any information source, it is important to fact check and verify information. Read below to learn how.

Lateral Reading

As with any information source, it is important to verify information, fact check, and confirm claims.  One strategy that can be used to verify claims is Lateral Reading, a term coined by Sam Wineburg’s Stanford research team. Lateral reading involves comparing several websites side by side at once to corroborate or disprove claims. 

 How to read laterally:

  1. Open a browser tab next to your ChatGPT generated information and google the piece of information that needs fact checking. 
  2. Read several websites and articles that discuss the claim to help you draw a conclusion about the accuracy of the information.
  3. Look at information from multiple sources to avoid any bias from a single source. Use more tabs to really maximize that lateral comparison.

Watch the video Check Yourself with Lateral Reading for more information on how to use this skill. 

Fact Checking

Trusted fact checking sites are helpful for verifying claims and busting disinformation. Here is a few fact checking sites:

  • PolitiFact “…is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others
  • “…is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.”
  • SciCheck  "...focuses exclusively on false and misleading scientific claims that are made by partisans to influence public policy."
  • Snopes is...“The definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation."

Learn more about how to fact check and verify information in the video, Online Verification Skills: Look for Trusted Sources.