A game, browser plugins, and troll activity recognition methods were developed during a one-day hackathon on May 13 organised by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.

On May 13, the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence organised a one-day hacking event aimed at coming up with practical methods to detect fake news and biased media sources online.

The aim of this event was to create a place where tech industry specialists and top minds from the media could collaborate on new ways to ensure the trustworthiness of online media. The 28 participants from Latvia were divided into six teams, each team included at least one coder, one statistician, one designer, and one journalist.

Some participants came with ready ideas for projects they had already been thinking about, which they pitched to the other members of their team. After an active work session, the six teams presented their projects to each other and voted for the best idea.

The winning idea was a Facebook game named “FakeBuster” that teaches media literacy and trains critical thinking. The idea will be further developed with the support of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.

One of the groups worked on a Facebook Plugin that combines crowdsourcing with artificial intelligence. A selected group of Facebook users (investigative journalists and civic activists) would be “agents” reporting on websites that share fake news. Their information they provide would be run through an artificial intelligence tool that analyses content and language to make it easier for users to see which pages share more biased news.

Another group analysed Facebook accounts that have a great many followers and tend to spread biased and fake news in order to determine if there is a way to find common criteria to make detecting such accounts easier. Two of the groups analysed trends in trolling: One used a big dataset from the web portal tvnet.lv that had identified internet trolls from Kremlin Troll Factories. The other group plans to work on their project “Catch a Liar” and present the final result in the following weeks. It is a wiki-based page that collects information about fake news sites and develops a chore app that shows readers how trustworthy a particular webpage is.    

The next hackathon will invite participants from across Europe to work on larger-scale projects.