One of the profound problems of the age is that on the Internet no-one knows you’re a dog. Or rather no-one knows whether you’re lying or telling the truth, especially when you’re hiding behind a social network. Now a pan-European project aims to take the guesswork out of our gassing by analyzing in real time whether a piece of information is true or false. <image – shutterstock>
The Pheme Project, named after the original gossip queen of Greek mythology, will let journalists, emergency services and other agencies instantly check to see whether information coming over networks such as Twitter or Facebook is actually correct, which may help save time, money and even lives.
The problem is made worse when there are large public disturbances, when any kind of rumor can rapidly spiral out of control and cause confusion and worse. For example in the London riots of 2011 a rumor circulated that all the animals in London Zoo had been set loose, which caused the emergency services to waste valuable time on checks.
The system will monitor speculation, controversy, misinformation and disinformation across a spectrum of media, and will verify or deny the postings through verifying sources, checking account history, tracking conversations and checking secondary sources. The key is this will all be done automatically in real time, which has not been done before. The results will be displayed on a user’s status dashboard so they can track rumors as they spread.
The three year project is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, King’s College London, MODUL University in Vienna, Saarland in Germany and several other collaborators in Switzerland, Spain and Bulgaria. It will be interesting to see if the new system will be able to detect true from false as quickly as they hope, but in the meantime one thing we can confirm is that Brad Pitt was definitely born in Nigeria.