Addressing fake news and disinformation on social media
Fake news have the power to build a misleading representation of reality posing a threat to our security and safety and forcing us to consider how we can build trust in information.
The ability for users to generate, share and engage with social media content means that there is a vast amount of information on social media. While users regularly access social media for the latest news and information, this information cannot always be trusted.
For example, the 2011 riots in the UK saw the use of social media for disinformation, the deliberate spread of false rumours about topics such as looting. It was during the 2016 US elections that the concept of “fake news” became mainstream, referring to unverified news stories and deliberate disinformation. This issue is only likely to increase with the emergence of “deep fake videos” that can be easily created by combining different videos and images and then shared on social media, examples include the use of machine learning techniques to develop lip-syncing videos of Barack Obama giving a speech by George W. Bush. Beyond research, in some more serious cases, the spread of disinformation can have the potential for life and death consequences when inaccurate information is spread in relation to issues such as disaster response or healthcare.
For example, when Hurricane Sandy swept across parts of the USA and the Caribbean, numerous people and organisations took to the web to search for and share information. As is commonly the case, some of this information was grossly untrue. Fake news was not limited to written content but images too, including sharks in flood waters and lady Liberty under attack from killer waves.
EUNOMIA project addresses these challenges associated with fake news and disinformation.
What is the EUNOMIA project?
EUNOMIA (user-oriented, secure, trustful & decentralised social media) is a European Union funded project that will assist users in determining the trustworthiness of social media information using an intermediary-free open-source approach. EUNOMIA will address the following questions focusing predominantly on decentralised social media:
– Which social media user is the original source of a piece of information?
– How has this information spread and been modified in an information cascade?
– How likely is the information to be trustworthy?
The 10 consortium partners will provide social media users with a technical platform and software tools that will enable them to vote on the trustworthiness of each social media post. Thus, EUNOMIA addresses the challenge of disinformation in social media by enabling users themselves to take ownership of their engagement with social media.
What role does Trilateral play in EUNOMIA?
Trilateral adopts a cross-cutting and interdisciplinary approach to their work in the EUNOMIA project focusing on:
- Primary applied social science research: Trilateral leads EUNOMIA’s work on human and societal factors. We will draw on our expertise in co-design and primary research (i.e., interviews, workshops) to engage with stakeholders to understand the social and political factors involved in the verification of information on social media
- Technology and data science: Building on our applied social science research, our interdisciplinary team will apply network analysis, natural language processing, and machine learning to gain insights from data extracted via social media APIs (e.g., Twitter, Mastodon) on the social (e.g., age, gender, nationality) and political factors involved in the verification of information
- Privacy Impact Assessment+: Trilateral is working in partnership with the technical developers and end-users to conduct a privacy, social and ethical impact assessment (PIA+) of the EUNOMIA tools to ensure that the project takes a privacy and data protection-by-design approach
- Co-design and Stakeholder engagement: Trilateral leads the ongoing liaison and engagement with relevant stakeholders that will benefit from the outputs of the EUNOMIA solution ensuring co-design approaches are integrated across the project
Trilateral will undertake this work in collaboration with the other partners, including the University of Greenwich, SIVECO, Blasting News, Inov Insec Inovação, University of West Attica, University of Nicosia, Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF), Eugen Rochko (Mastodon Social), and SYNYO GmbH. Representatives from all partners were brought together for the EUNOMIA kick-off meeting that took place in Greenwich (UK) in January 2019. The kick-off meeting provided the perfect opportunity for the partners to plan the work for the next three years.
Partners at the EUNOMIA kick-off meeting, Greenwich (UK)
The EUNOMIA project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 825171.