The latest research project from the University of Sheffield, Warwick, King’s College London, Saarland in Germany and MODUL University Vienna in Austria is being funded by the European Union. The goal: to root out social media lies from truths.
With social networks like Twitter being on the forefront of information dissemination, the EU and government agencies are interested in siphoning the information it seeks. Dr. Lalina Bontcheve from the University’s Department of Computer Science explains that “after the 2011 riots that social networks should have been shut down, to prevent the rioters using them to organise. But social networks also provide useful information – the problem is that it all happens so fast and we can’t quickly sort truth from lies. This makes it difficult to respond to rumours, for example, for the emergency services to quash a lie in order to keep a situation calm. Our system aims to help with that, by tracking and verifying information in real time.”
The research will classify information based on the four classifications:
Speculation – such as whether interest rates might rise
Controversy – as over the MMR vaccine
Misinformation, where something untrue is spread unwittingly
Disinformation, where it’s done with malicious intent
Of course, with classification systems, it’s possible to censor, eliminate, or punish those dispelling lies or misinformation. In the UK Twitter trolls were jailed for 8-12 weeks after making rape threats against a feminist reporter. The two were cited for “improper use of a public electronic communications network.”