Research Thrusts

The proliferation of fake news in today's digital world has moved beyond a specific election cycle and now commands headlines globally. So-called "alternative facts" are shared on social networks and spread like wildfire across all sorts of social media.

Propaganda and misinformation have a much longer history than the internet, of course, but the rapid proliferation of "fake news" on social media, and its tendency to extend into mainstream news coverage, can obscure the difference between what's credible information and what's simply inaccurate.

Modern attempts to combat the spread of falsehoods have focused mainly on computerized, automated tools. These tools flag previously identified hoaxes; or automatically detect fake news using natural language processing techniques; or track the virus-like transmission of hoaxes. But none of them focus on verifying the statements contained in news and opinion articles.

Research tells us that critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning are essential for countering propaganda and misinformation intended to manipulate public opinion. Our team recently developed a method that uses the power of crowdsourcing to engage in collective critical reasoning to help confirm or invalidate these statements reliably and in ways easy for the public at large to understand.

The goal of the Structured Discussions Project is to develop a tool to help verify alternative facts.