A Multistage Retrieval System for Health-related Misinformation Detection

Web search is widely used to find online medical advice. As such, health-related information access requires retrieval algorithms capable of promoting reliable documents and filtering out unreliable ones. To this end, different types of components, such as query-document matching features, passage relevance estimation and AI-based reliability estimators, need to be combined. In this paper, we propose an entire pipeline for misinformation detection, based on the fusion of multiple content-based features. We present experiments which study the influence of each pipeline stage for the target task. Our technological solution incorporates signals from technologies derived from diverse research fields, including search, deep learning for natural language processing, as well as advanced supervised and unsupervised learning. To combine evidence, different score fusion strategies are compared, including unsupervised rank fusion techniques and learning-to-rank methods. The reference framework for empirically validating our solution is the TREC Health Misinformation Track, which provides several challenging subtasks that foster research on the identification of reliable and correct information for health-related decision making tasks. More specifically, we address a total recall task, the goal of which is to identify all the documents conveying incorrect information for a specific set of topics, and an ad-hoc retrieval task, aiming to rank credible and correct information over incorrect information. All variants are evaluated with an assorted set of effectiveness metrics, which includes standard search measures, such as R-Precision, Average Precision or Normalized Discounted Cumulative Gain, and innovative metrics based on the compatibility between the ranked output and two reference rankings composed of helpful and harmful documents, respectively. Our experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed pipeline stages and indicate that sophisticated supervised fusion methods do not fare better than simpler fusion alternatives. Additionally, for reliability estimation, unsupervised textual similarity performs better than textual classification based on supervised learning. The results also show that the presented approach is highly competitive when compared with state-of-the-art solutions for the same problem.

keywords: Engineering Applications, Web Search, Health Misinformation, Information Retrieval, Natural Language Processing, Artificial intelligence (AI)