UW researchers to combat misinformation on social media

MADISON, Wis. — Spotting “fake news” is often easier said than done, even when you work in the journalism industry. Researchers from UW-Madison want to help, and they’re dedicating the next nine months to it.

A team of University researchers has partnered with researchers at Georgia Tech and Washington State Universities in a project meant to identify and combat online misinformation. The project is being funded by a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator.

Primary investigator Mike Wagner says his goal for the project is to go beyond simply dispelling popular misconceptions.

“What we want to be able to do is identify who the folks are who are spreading misinformation,” said Wagner.

Among others joining Wagner is UW Mass Communications Research Director Dhavan Shah. He says that once the sources of misinformation are identified,  she hopes to help fact-checkers and journalists get verifiable information out more quickly.

 “In all those spaces we can start to think about, where can we detect where misinformation is flowing and what kind of misinformation is actually flowing there,” said Shah. “Ultimately, the learning we do from that we hope to be able to work with fact-checkers as they put their stories out to help them to know where to direct those stories.”

The team of researchers will share their findings in July, and if successful, they’ll continue onto phase two of their research, developing a prototype database for fact-checkers to utilize in spreading the truth.