Following the rumours that came out of the London riots, researchers are developing a platform to automatically verify information from social media
A social media “lie detector” is being developed to help journalists verify rumours and other information online.
The three-year project, named Pheme, is an European Union-funded collaboration between an international group of researchers led by the University of Sheffield.
Lead researcher Dr Kalina Bontcheva told Journalism.co.uk that the idea for the project had come about following the circulation of rumours within tweets during the London riots in 2011, such as the false claim that animals had been set free from London Zoo.
“The problem with [verification] is that it can take quite a lot of people’s time and effort, which isn’t always tenable when we’re talking about responding to events unfolding in real-time, which is what normally happens in a newsroom,” she explained.
The idea of Pheme, she said, is to automate certain verification processes to make it easier, and faster, for journalists to use the social web effectively in a breaking news situation, when such platforms are often flooded with information.
Pheme will attempt to sort online rumours into four categories: speculation, controversy, misinformation (where false information is circulated unknowingly) and disinformation (where something is spread maliciously).