Jessica McKenzie of Tech President reports, "An international group of researchers led by the University of Sheffield is building a social media “lie detector” named Pheme, after the mythological rumormonger, that can determine in real time whether a information spread on social media is true or false. The idea is that identifying misinformation would allow journalists, government agencies, emergency response, health providers and private companies to respond to emergencies and other events more effectively."
McKenzie continues, "'There was a suggestion after the 2011 riots that social networks should have been shut down, to prevent the rioters using them to organise,' says Dr. Kalina Bontcheva, lead researcher on the project. '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.' It is unclear from the press release how online rumors might be 'quashed'—whether they would be deleted from the platform or merely countered with accurate information. The possibility of deletion conjures up specters of censorship in countries like China and Venezuela, where dissidents are silenced for voicing 'rumors'. Much of the technology to distinguish between truth and falsehood is already there, but the challenge is doing it in real time."
Image: Courtesy Flickr/ Marcin Wichary