Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Researchers working on social media 'lie detector'

20 February 2014, 08:29

London - University researchers are working on a system that could quash rumours spreading on social media by identifying whether information is accurate.

Five European universities, led by Sheffield in northern England, are cooperating on a system that could automatically identify whether a rumour originates from a reliable source and can be verified.

The researchers said on Tuesday they hope the system will allow governments, emergency services, media and the private sector to respond more effectively to claims emerging and spreading on social media before they get out of hand.

The three-year, European Union-funded project, called PHEME, is an attempt to filter out the nuggets of factual information from the avalanche of ill-informed comment on Twitter and Facebook.

"Social networks are rife with lies and deception," the project leaders said in a statement. Such messages can have far-reaching consequences, but there is so much of it that it is impossible to analyse it in real time.

Claims during the 2011 riots in London that the London Eye observation wheel was on fire or that all the animals were let out of London Zoo were given as examples of false rumours that spread rapidly via the internet.

The research is being led by Dr Kalina Bontcheva of Sheffield University's Faculty of Engineering.

"The problem is that it all happens so fast and we can't quickly sort truth from lies," she said.

"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."

The project is trying to identify four types of information - speculation, controversy, misinformation, and disinformation - and model their spread on social networks.

It will try to use three factors to establish veracity: the information itself (lexical, syntactic and semantic); cross-referencing with trustworthy data sources; and the information's diffusion.

The results can be displayed to the user on screen.

"We can already handle many of the challenges involved, such as the sheer volume of information in social networks, the speed at which it appears and the variety of forms, from tweets, to videos, pictures and blog posts," said Bontcheva.

"But it's currently not possible to automatically analyse, in real time, whether a piece of information is true or false and this is what we've now set out to achieve."

The Times newspaper said the EU would meet most of the predicted €4.3m costs of the project and a final version is hoped for within 18 months.

The project is a collaboration between five universities - Sheffield, King's College London, Warwick in England, Saarland in Germany and MODUL University Vienna - and four companies - ATOS in Spain, iHub in Kenya, Ontotext in Bulgaria and swissinfo.ch.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
ODM MP chased down by angry Kibra...

Kibra MP Ken Okoth had a hard time in his constituency after angry youth pelted him with stones. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Prepare for DP Ruto fight in 2022...

An MP has warned that the Kalenjin Community will not stand back and watch as DP Ruto is duped ahead of the 2022 polls. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Be careful who you deal with, DP ...

Watch out for your political future, DP William Ruto has been warned. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Kikuyu 2022 vote will go to Peter...

The 2022 Kikuyu vote will go to Peter Kenneth, a Rift Valley Governor has warned DP William Ruto. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
CORD threatens to boycott 2017 po...

The CORD Coalition says that it will be forced to boycott the 2017 elections if there is no new voter register in place by the time. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Disgraced Jeptoo stripped of 2014...

Organizers of the Boston Marathon are stripping Kenyan runner Rita Jeptoo of her 2014 victory as part of the athlete's newly extended doping ban. Read more...