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Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WeVerify (WIDER AND ENHANCED VERIFICATION FOR YOU)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2019-11-30

WeVerify’s aim is to address the advanced content verification challenges through a participatory verification approach, open source algorithms, low-overhead human-in-the-loop machine learning and intuitive visualizations. Social media and web content will be analysed for detection of disinformation, contextualised within the broader social web and media ecosystem; and misleading and fabricated content will be exposed as such, both through micro-targeted debunking and a blockchain-based public database of known fakes.
A key outcome will be the WeVerify platform for collaborative, decentralised content verification, tracking, and debunking. The platform will be open source to engage communities and citizen journalists alongside newsroom and freelance journalists; to enable low-overhead integration with in-house content management systems; and to support both organisational deployments and a premium, web platform-as-a-service offering. It will be furthermore supplemented by a digital companion to assist with verification tasks.
The main project objectives are to:
● Enable disinformation detection and content verification through an open-source cross-modal verification platform. We will adopt a holistic, cross-disciplinary approach including, but not limited to, methods for identifying the key information sources, analysing information cascades and social network actors, and multimodal and cross-modal content verification techniques (text, images, video) capable of addressing the newly emerging threat of highly realistic automatically generated media content (also known as deep fakes)
● Implement a blockchain-based, authoritative database of already debunked fake items. The blockchain will ensure that already verified facts are recorded in an incorruptible, decentralized ledger, with no single point of failure. When the verification community grows large enough, the blockchain will be absolutely necessary to ensure that individuals or groups cannot tamper with the database of known fakes to serve their own purposes.
● Develop a digital companion for citizens and an advanced version for journalists. The companion will guide its users through the verification process, volunteer evidence gathered by the automatic verification algorithms, and suggest the most relevant tools throughout the process. Moreover, for citizens, the companion will also provide links to online advice on the threat of online disinformation, published by reputable media literacy and verification initiatives.
● Develop open-source tools for sourcing and tracking disinformation flows across social platforms, news media, and online sites. In particular, we will address: i. identifying disinformation ecosystems through the interplay of relationships, ii. identifying the disinformation sources and the way in which disinformation is exploiting the filter bubbles, echo chambers, and highly polarised communities for maximum damage, iii. using the power of data visualization to quickly convey how disinformation is spreading, iv. micro-targeting actors and followers spreading disinformation with debunked stories.
● Deliver a collaborative cross-media verification workbench: Building on the existing Truly Media commercial verification platform by ATC and DW, we will also provide a professional environment with advanced functionalities for collaborative content verification, making use of the open source modules along with proprietary tools owned by the consortium partners or even other parties with whom agreements will be sought. This will be aimed at teams of verification professionals that have more specific needs for a complete workflow.
● Pilot the adoption of the WeVerify platform with large stakeholder communities: many diverse communities will be involved in the WeVerify pilots, in order to ensure technological relevance for all target stakeholders: journalist and media communities , worldwide community of debunkers and fact-checkers (through the International Fact-Checking Network), independent verification organisations; citizen journalists; media literacy organisations; human rights activists and NGOs; emergency response NGOs. Another key established target community are the constantly increasing users of InVID/WeVerify Verification plugin.
During the first reporting period work started with detailed analysis of user scenarios and user needs. The results were used to guide the developments of the content verification tools, the underlying database of known fakes and the WeVerify platform as a whole. In addition, many new features and enhancements were introduced to existing user-facing tools (the professional workbench and the verification plug-in) to address identified user needs, to enable collaborative content verification and to add social network analysis functionalities. New user interfaces were also developed to assist with verification tasks and to access the database of known fakes.
First versions of all developed tools and services, the database, the platform and user-facing tools were delivered at the end of the first year. Many services and the platform itself are provided as open source software or as open access tools, which will help in building a user community faster and boost the adoption.
The redesigned InVID/WeVerify plug-in released during Period 1 helped increase its user base to more than 18 000 worldwide. Through this community, the project can have significant impact in different social aspects related to disinformation. In addition, work started on creating a digital companion that will help both fact checking professionals and regular citizens to easily navigate and work with the multitude of tools for verification provided by the InVID/WeVerify verification plug-in. The digital companion was integrated with the InVID/WeVerify verification plug-in. The combination of media literacy resources available in the plug-in and the guided workflows that the digital companion offers will directly contribute to an important objective of the call – “Societal change towards digital literacy and citizen participation”.