Irish journalist heads study to tackle fake news

tom felle city university london journamlism fake news grant
Tom Felle (left) with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Web giant pays £300,000 to City University Journalists

City University of London journalism researchers will lead a major European push to combat ‘fake news’ after being awarded a new grant by the Google Digital News Initiative (DNI) to help journalists find and verify information in big data.

A team of researchers at City have been given £300,000 by Google to build a web-based app called DMINR.

The app combines machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to help journalists fact check, make sense of data and verify information.

It also has applications for investigative journalism by sorting and finding connections in so-called ‘big data’ such as police, government and environmental data, and company records.

“As more and more information is stored and made available electronically sifting through mass data has become increasingly difficult,” says project lead and Senior Lecturer in Digital Journalism at City, Tom Felle.

Democracy

“Few newsrooms have the capacity to undertake digital investigative journalism because of a lack of skills, resources and access to digital tools, yet this sort of accountability and public service journalism is vitally important for democracy.”

The project is expected to begin in September and take two years to complete. It is one of a number of initiatives aimed at tackling the proliferation of so-called ‘fake news’ and will revolutionise investigative journalism in the digital era, according to the academic.

“Separating the news from the noise is key to the verification of digital information. DMINR serves to empower journalists by supporting them in identifying and making sense of connections in large, complex datasets.

Churnalism

“It will allow journalists to take the lead in breaking original news, build trust and engagement with audiences, combat false information and provide a counter-balance to infotainment and so-called ‘churnalism’.”

The team was one of a small number chosen from applications from all over Europe. The grant awarded to City is the biggest single grant to a university of its kind and is one of the largest grants awarded in Europe to a single institution by the DNI fund in 2017.


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