COVID-19: Being alone together: developing fake news immunity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Communication and Media

Abstract

This project is framed in the area of "crisis informatics", the study of how (mis)information
about COVID-19 is generated and flows over media platforms. The main goal is that of
reverse-engineering the manipulation of information providing citizens with the means to act
as fact checkers. We believe that fostering global digital activism constitutes a necessary
means to fight the current info-pandemic. The majority of fact-checking and myth-busting
sites (e.g. EUvsDisinfo, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-
2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters) counter false narratives and news that have already
become viral, unable to prevent their spread. Furthermore, AI techniques
(http://www.fakenewschallenge.org) are currently not accurate enough to replace humans
in generalised fact-checking. This is especially the case when the news does not contain
fabricated information (disinformation), but it is framed in such a way that true evidence is
used to draw false generalizations and evaluations (Wardle 2019), resulting in semi-fake
news.
Leveraging NLP techniques for topic modelling and frame analysis (Das et al. 2010) we will
trace the topics and frames which characterize semi-fake COVID-19 news using FullFact
(https://fullfact.org/) and the Coronavirus debunking archive built by First Draft
(https://firstdraftnews.org/long-form-article/coronavirus-resources-for-reporters/) as
benchmarks. We will identify the fallacious reasonings in the sample and use the results to
compile a set of guidelines about how to detect semi-fake COVID-19 news. These principles
will be operationalised in a digital platform with a chatbot for training citizens to spot
misinformation. Citizens who have been trained will have access to the Fake News Immunity
platform, working together with experts in the common effort of flagging semi-fake news.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Booklet 
Description Booklet of recommendations to identify misinformation 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact This booklet will be published in an online exhibition directed by the Treorchy Library in the frame of the Engaging libraries project 
 
Description Through this award we have i) carried out a multi-level analysis of 1135 fact-checked news about COVID-19
ii) identified a set of 10 key misinformation triggers to recognise misinformation about COVID-19
iii) built a chatbot to interactively teach citizens and journalists how to identify misinformation
Exploitation Route They can inform the creation of automatic fact-checkers able to identify misinformation; they can be leveraged to improve the news making process as well as public communications in crisis scenarios
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description --- the chatbot is being used as part of training programmes to fight the infodemic at the level of local and regional councils and institutions, news agencies and global organisations
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Citation in the
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in systematic reviews
Impact Provide resources to fight the infodemic
URL https://mailchi.mp/e1d8a96996a1/infodemic-management-news-flash-issue-10873618
 
Description workshop at doctoral school to teach most cutting edge methdologies for fact-checking
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact train Ph.D students in building effective fact-checking
 
Description workshop with PHE communication team
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact provide PHE communication teams with the tools, resources and analytics to counter and prevent infodemic about mass testing and vaccine
 
Description workshop with postgraduate students to train them in fact-checking
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Increased awareness and skills in identifying misinformation at scale and avoid mis behaviors about COVID-19.
 
Description undergraduate abd postgraduate research schemes
Amount £2,100 (GBP)
Organisation University of Liverpool 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2020 
End 08/2021
 
Description Collaboration with Sefton Public Health 
Organisation Public Health England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution --- Inform communication gatekeepers about identified triggers and trend in misinformation spread --- make our chatbot available for training purposes
Collaborator Contribution Inform the team about local communication practices
Impact Knowledge transfer workshop to inform local communication gatekeepers about the interim results of our project
Start Year 2021
 
Description Collaboration with the Engaging Libraries program - Carnegie Trust (Treorchy Library) 
Organisation Carnegie Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution 1. Co-creating a booklet with the library service on fake news with useful advice, links and resources. 2. Assist with the development of an online exhibition with our chatbot 3. Assist atrs facilitator with the development of short films/scenarios about the subject of fake news. 4. Provide guest lectures on the dis/misinformation topic.
Collaborator Contribution our chatbot has been integrated this into the library website and made part of the online exhibition.
Impact Fake News Immunity booklet: https://fakenewsimmunity.liverpool.ac.uk/resources/
Start Year 2020
 
Description Synergy with the NIHR HPRUEZI COVID - Generating actionable evidence for containing the spread of misinformation (PI - Mark Green) - 19 Strategic Research Call - 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Department Department of Geography and Planning
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution provide data containing misinformation sources
Collaborator Contribution provide a complete dataset of Tweets related to misinformation
Impact publication: Mark Green1, Elena Musi2, Francisco Rowe1, Darren Charles3, Frances Darlington Pollock1, Chris Kypridemos4, Andrew Morse1, Patricia Rossini2, John Tulloch5,6, Andrew Davies1, Emily Dearden6,7, Henry Maheswaran4, Alex Singleton1, Roberto Vivancos5,6, Sally Sheard4. Identifying how the spread of misinformation reacts to the announcement of the UK national lockdown: An interrupted time-series study. Submitted to Big Data and Society
Start Year 2020
 
Title Fake News Immunity Chatbot 
Description multi-agent public access platform that interactively teaches users how to factcheck news about COVID-19 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2020 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The chatbot has been added to the myliverpool app resource (https://welcome.liverpool.ac.uk/) to train students in becoming factcheckers. 
URL http://fni.arg.tech/
 
Description Building data literacy with the teaching profession at global scale 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of our research results to educational practitioners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Fake News Immunity chatbot presentation at the Mozilla festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact In this workshop we provide citizens with tools to navigate mis-/dis-information in a critical way and improve their decision making processes during the pandemic and beyond. As part of our ESRC funded project "Being Alone Together: Developing Fake News Immunity" we developed a multi-player chatbot...
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://schedule.mozillafestival.org/schedule
 
Description Participation to the UK Parliament knowledge exchange 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The UK Parliament Knowledge Exchange has integrated Dr. Elinor Carmi's insights feeding into their piece on "Life beyond COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://post.parliament.uk/life-beyond-covid-19-what-are-experts-concerned-about/
 
Description Press release to announce the launch of the Fake News Immunity Chatbot 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Through a press release announcing the launch of our chatbot we have been featured by more than 10 local and international news media outlets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://fakenewsimmunity.liverpool.ac.uk/media-events
 
Description invited talk to the "Mental Helath Monday podcast) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk explaining to the podcast audience why we are persuaded by misinformation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://audioboom.com/posts/7691265-ep-174-why-conspiracy-theories-thrive-and-how-to-cope-with-them