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Open Distributed Digital Content Verification for Hyper-connected Sociality

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SocialTruth (Open Distributed Digital Content Verification for Hyper-connected Sociality)

Período documentado: 2019-12-01 hasta 2021-11-30

The extreme growth and adoption of Social Media, in combination with their poor governance over the digital content being published and shared, has led information veracity to a continuous deterioration. Current approaches entrust content verification to a single centralised authority and lack resilience towards news falsification methods. SocialTruth’s ambition is to create an open, democratic, pluralistic and distributed ecosystem that allows easy access to various verification services (both internal and third-party), ensuring scalability and establishing trust in a completely decentralized environment.

Serious concerns about the growing fake news problem have been raised in the EU Parliament, whereas various organizations (including commercial vendors) are being confronted with a mass of fake news and are taking steps to reduce disinformation being spread and re-posted in the web. The classification of disinformation and misinformation is challenging due to its vague definition and established human rights related to freedom of speech. Even trusted sources, such as news agencies, are not easily to verified and in practice, news veracity relies upon implicit editorial trust.

SocialTruth will benefit: a) Individual users to verify the validity of Social Media content and prevent misinformation spread; b) Media organisations, content authors and journalists to boost their investigative capabilities by enabling improved cross-checking of various multimedia information sources; c) Search engines, Social Media platforms and e-advertising networks to improve information veracity and contribute into a more sustainable and quality-oriented web and social media ecosystem.

In view of the above, the SocialTruth objectives are to:
Obj-1: Develop a distributed content verification solution with a complex-free Digital Companion for online credibility verification of digital content found on web and social media.
Obj-2: Compose a digital content analytics and verification ecosystem with support for text, image and video, open to third-party service providers.
Obj-3: Leverage blockchain technologies to establish distributed reputation and trust in digital content sharing.
Obj-4: Deploy a distributed and thoroughly validated architecture (TRL-7) for the delivery of SocialTruth credibility evaluation services.
Obj-5: Test and evaluate the SocialTruth architecture and services in real-life use cases with the close involvement of end-users.
Obj-6: Introduce innovative business models for news, web and social media stakeholders, and provide support to the EU strategic agendas and policies.
During Reporting Period 2 (RP2) SocialTruth fully covered its objectives and completed its milestones and deliverables. It accomplished all significant technical outcomes and milestones under the difficult conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic without additional delays in the overall workplan. Difficulties related to the pandemic have been tackled by the management team with the active engagement of all project partners. The technical results have been all successfully achieved, including:
- The finalization of an Open Architecture
- The development of ten (10) verification engines
- The development of a Metaverification model and training algorithm that improves the overall system accuracy
- The development of the Metaverification Toolkit, an online set of tools that targets the experts’ and the fact-checkers communities
- The development of a comprehensive federated Blockchain architecture that supports the trustworthiness and consensus-building process
- The development of the 3rd and final prototype of the Digital Companion, and web browser add-on that is used as a front end for all SocialTruth verifications by users with minimum training needs
- The incorporation of a cryptocurrency wallet within the Digital Companion, for the support of innovative business models that will cater for incentives to participating professionals, experts and fact-checkers and provide opportunities to balance the excessive processing costs of the verification process.
Dissemination activities were implemented through our own communication channels and widespread press releases and scientific dissemination via an extended research papers production; we achieved direct contacts with industry stakeholders, and we refined our business and sustainability plans via the active engagement of our end-user partner that has a strong experience on the relevant domains, i.e. news and online media agencies; educational content; and, consumer communities empowerment.
SoialTruth aims to create an open, democratic, pluralistic and distributed ecosystem that enables easy access to various verification services, ensuring scalability and establishing trust. Key innovations achieved by the project are:

- Digital Companion: easy-to-use browser plugin that allows a non-professional user to invoke a meta-verification process
- Distributed Verification Services: heterogeneous verification services, each one providing a specific type of content analytics or verification-relevant functionality, constantly accumulating experience and learning new paradigms of fake news
- Expert Meta-Verification Engine: combines and presents results from multiple verification services to compute a meta-score
- Blockchain: used as a distributed system of records with respect to digital content verification history.

SocialTruth is targeting a significant impact on the press, publishing and broadcasting sectors: Through SocialTruth, content producers will be in a position to screen the credibility of articles and stories faster and more accurately, based on multiple criteria. Also, authors will be able to retrieve and incorporate verifiable relevant background information into their stories and have real-time support in cases of breaking news. Online and participatory journalism, news feeds, content aggregators, Web portals, Internet-oriented mass communication will greatly benefit from the SocialTruth innovation.
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