While much of the world’s attention has been on the global pandemic, we cannot lose sight of another global problem: the infodemic. In the infodemic, the disease is misinformation and it’s spread not through physical contact but through posts, likes and shares. “Just as the key to protecting oneself and others from COVID-19 is personal hygiene, social media users must adopt best practices in information hygiene to protect themselves and others from the bane of online misinformation,” says Georgios Loukas, a researcher at the University of Greenwich. When it comes to stopping the infodemic, instead of a vaccine, there’s EUNOMIA, an EU-funded project that built a social media platform to help users determine whether information is trustworthy.
From checking sources to flagging untrustworthy information, there are hundreds of options that social media users can use to help curb the spread of misinformation. “The problem is that all of these are too vague, too time-consuming, or too difficult to easily incorporate into one’s online routine,” explains Loukas, who served as the project coordinator. EUNOMIA addresses this problem by putting the user at the centre of the decision-making process. “This project encourages the active participation of social media users to stop the spread of misinformation and to ‘flatten the curve’ of the infodemic,” adds Loukas. The platform does this by, for example, allowing users to vote on a content piece’s trustworthiness and act as a trust reference within their social network. The number of votes appears as one of several indicators that may assist other users in assessing trustworthiness. Another key feature allows users to see any modifications made to online information in between different users’ posts. The platform can also show a user’s ratio of followers to following, a key indicator of ‘bot’ activity, along with an information cascade that flags similar information within the EUNOMIA platform, whether the similarity is in the meaning conveyed by the text or in the images used. “All of these features act as digital nudges that ultimately get the user to take the time needed to analyse a specific post, assess its trustworthiness, and then cast their vote so other users can make their own assessments,” notes Loukas.
A potential game changer
EUNOMIA is freely available as an open-source, decentralised tool, meaning different organisations can set up their own tailored social platforms. So far, six communities have adopted the platform, including Blasting News, the largest social journalism platform in the world, as well as a decentralised community of blockchain enthusiasts in the United Kingdom. “This project has demonstrated that, in an era where information trustworthiness has become critical, it is possible to turn to a social media platform that prioritises trust over likes,” concludes Loukas. “I am confident that the fact that EUNOMIA allows users to self-regulate their own inadvertent sharing of misinformation will prove to be a game changer.” The project team is currently organising the governance of the EUNOMIA network and hopes to launch the platform as a stand-alone not-for-profit entity.
EUNOMIA, social media, misinformation, infodemic, online information, social network