DCU leads €2.4m EU project to tackle ‘fake news’

8 Nov 2018

Image: georgejmclittle/Depositphotos

Focus of new DCU project will be to help people tell fact from fiction.

Dublin City University (DCU) is to lead a €2.4m EU project entitled ‘Provenance’ to tackle the issue of ‘fake news’ by tracking and flagging online disinformation, especially through social media.

The three-year project is funded by the European Commission’s (EC) Horizon 2020 programme and will focus on finding solutions to enable people to distinguish between original information and manipulated information or disinformation.

‘The speed and volume of disinformation on social media has the potential to undermine democracy, business and social reputations’

Provenance will be led by Dr Jane Suiter, associate professor at the DCU Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo). The project team includes academic and industry partners from Ireland, Spain, the Czech Republic and Austria.

Irish collaborators include the SFI Adapt research centre for digital content technology at Trinity College Dublin and the content intelligence company NewsWhip.

The establishment of the Provenance project reflects an acute awareness of the challenges posed for citizens by large-scale disinformation, including misleading and outright false information.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum identified the rapid spread of misinformation online as one of the top 10 trends in modern societies. Meanwhile, recent EC research found that 80pc of Europeans come across information that they believe is false or misleading several times a month, and up to 85pc thought it was a particular issue for their country.

“The speed and volume of disinformation on social media has the potential to undermine democracy, business and social reputations,” Suiter said.

“This project will enable the tracking of online content and enable the level of its manipulation through web and social media platforms to help consumers and business not only track their own material, but to have confidence in the content that they see online.”

Verification layer

The Provenance approach will involve the use of a ‘verification layer’, which will employ advanced digital technologies for multimedia analytics (including image forensics) to record any modifications to content and to identify similar pieces of content.

A ‘verification indicator’ will contextualise individual pieces of content with relevant information, including when the content was registered, by whom, and any subsequent transactions.

The project solutions will be of particular use for consumers of news and political information, but also for content creators who want to secure their content from manipulation or unauthorised use.

“Ensuring the integrity and reliability of news from various sources is a critical issue for citizens across the globe at this time and is one that gets to the very heart of democracy,” said DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith.

“Building on DCU’s expertise and our commitment to excellence and innovation in journalism education over many decades, I am delighted that our FuJo Institute is focusing its research and leading a team of international experts to address this key issue.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years