Most existing work on automated fact checking is concerned with predicting the veracity of claims based on metadata, social network spread, language used in claims, and, more recently, evidence supporting or denying claims. A crucial piece of the puzzle that is still missing is to understand how to automate the most elaborate part of the process – generating justifications for verdicts on claims. This paper provides the first study of how these explanations can be generated automatically based on available claim context, and how this task can be modelled jointly with veracity prediction. Our results indicate that optimising both objectives at the same time, rather than training them separately, improves the performance of a fact checking system. The results of a manual evaluation further suggest that the informativeness, coverage and overall quality of the generated explanations are also improved in the multi-task model.
Recent developments in machine learning have introduced models that approach human performance at the cost of increased architectural complexity. Efforts to make the rationales behind the models’ predictions transparent have inspired an abundance of new explainability techniques. Provided with an already trained model, they compute saliency scores for the words of an input instance. However, there exists no definitive guide on (i) how to choose such a technique given a particular application task and model architecture, and (ii) the benefits and drawbacks of using each such technique. In this paper, we develop a comprehensive list of diagnostic properties for evaluating existing explainability techniques. We then employ the proposed list to compare a set of diverse explainability techniques on downstream text classification tasks and neural network architectures. We also compare the saliency scores assigned by the explainability techniques with human annotations of salient input regions to find relations between a model’s performance and the agreement of its rationales with human ones. Overall, we find that the gradient-based explanations perform best across tasks and model architectures, and we present further insights into the properties of the reviewed explainability techniques.
We contribute the largest publicly available dataset of naturally occurring factual claims for the purpose of automatic claim verification. It is collected from 26 fact checking websites in English, paired with textual sources and rich metadata, and labelled for veracity by human expert journalists. We present an in-depth analysis of the dataset, highlighting characteristics and challenges. Further, we present results for automatic veracity prediction, both with established baselines and with a novel method for joint ranking of evidence pages and predicting veracity that outperforms all baselines. Significant performance increases are achieved by encoding evidence, and by modelling metadata. Our best-performing model achieves a Macro F1 of 49.2%, showing that this is a challenging testbed for claim veracity prediction.