Tag Archives: Sphere

Meta Launches Sphere To Verify Citations On Wikipedia



Meta announced that, building on Meta’s AI research and advancements, they have developed the first model capable of automatically scanning hundreds of thousands of citations at once to check whether they truly support the corresponding claims. Volunteers double-check Wikipedia’s footnotes, but, as the site continues to grow, it’s challenging to keep pace with more than the 17,000 new articles added each month.

Automated tools can help identify gibberish or statements that lack citations, but helping human editors determine whether a source actually backs up a claim is a much more complex task – one that requires an AI system’s depth of understanding and analysis.

Meta AI states that they have already begin to develop the building blocks of the next generation of citation tools. Last year, they released an AI model that integrates information retrieval and verification, and they are training neural networks to learn more nuanced representations of language so they can pinpoint relevant source material in an internet-size pool of data.

The new dataset of 134 million web pages serves as the system’s main components: Sphere, a web-scale retrieval library that is open sourced here.

TechCrunch reported that Sphere’s first user is Wikipedia, which is using it to automatically scan entries and identify when citations and entries are strongly or weakly supported.

According to TechCrunch, the Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees Wikipedia, has been weighing up new ways of leveraging all that data. Last month, it announced an Enterprise tier and its first two commercial customers, Google and the Internet Archive, which use Wikipedia-based data for their own business-generating interests and will now have more formal service agreements wrapped around that.

TechCrunch also stated: On Meta’s part, the company continues to be weighed down by a bad public perception, stemming in part from accusations that it enables misinformation and toxic ideas to gain ground freely. …It’s a mess for sure, but in that regard launching something like Sphere feels like a PR exercise for Meta, as much as a potentially useful tool. According to TechCrunch, if it works, it shows that there are people in the organization trying to work in good faith.

I find it interesting that Meta posted a “NOTE” at the end of its announcement. “Wikipedia and Meta are not partnering on this project. The project is still in the research phase and not being used to automatically update any content on Wikipedia.”

The thing about AI doing the work that previously as done by humans is that an AI lacks discernment. A human can easily spot when a cited source turns out to be misleading (or has a dead link). Personally, I’m not comfortable allowing an AI to make decisions about whether or not a link to a cited source is more or less valid than another on the same topic. I’m unconvinced that an AI has the nuance to discern why one source is better than another.


Twitter has Acquired Sphere



Sphere announced that it has been acquired by Twitter. In a post on Medium, Sphere wrote, “We’ve joined to accelerate our mission of bringing people closer together through community.” TechCrunch reported that a Twitter spokesperson confirmed the Sphere acquisition news to them.

…We originally built a marketplace of paid experts from all around the world, connecting them through group chat. What we realized is that some of the most helpful and knowledgable conversations came from groups where members felt a strong sense of belonging to one another. In other words, at the heart of our challenge was helping every single person find their community.

According to Sphere, their feed automatically clears out old or irrelevant chats to prevent groups from feeling chaotic. Their chats call out essential messages (like polls, events, and announcements) and make it more likely for people to respond. Sphere has custom appreciations that encourage people to express genuine gratitude. Sphere says that by welcoming participation, they learned groups can become more productive, vibrant, purposeful and close.

In the Medium post, Sphere expressed admiration for “Twitter’s growing investment in community-building with the release of Communities, Spaces, and features that promote safety”. In my opinion, it sounds like the people at Sphere are wonderfully optimistic about what their experience with Twitter will be like. I hope it works out the way they want it to.

Those who are currently using Sphere need to be aware that Sphere will be winding down their standalone product next month. It appears the all 20 of the team of Sphere workers will be working on Twitter’s Communities, Direct Messages and Creators initiatives soon.

Sometimes, companies acquire smaller companies who do not appear to have very much in common with what the bigger company does. In this case, it sounds like Twitter and Sphere are a good match.