Category: Blog

A timely interview about how to spot "fakes" in the news automatically. The podcast is hosted by the Global News. The host, Jason Tetro, a Visiting Scientist at the University of Guelph was a great fun to talk to! Thank you, Jason, for the invitation.

Listen to the 30-minute podcast
via https://globalnews.ca/author/super-awesome-science-show/

Further details about our open source software, the News Verification Browser, can be found on the Project's page of this lab. It also has a three-minute video demo of the Clickbait Detector (part of the NV Browser), narrated by one of our researchers, Yimin Chen.

"Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) is seeking outstanding candidates for two probationary (Tenure-Track) appointments effective July 1, 2020.

The Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) at Western University invites applications for 2 probationary (tenure-track) appointments at the rank of Assistant Professor in the areas of (1) digital media theory and practice and (2) information and media policy and law.

(1) Digital Media Theory and Practice: We seek candidates who conduct critical research on the social, cultural and/or economic dimensions of digitalization. Research areas might include social media and algorithmic culture; datafication and surveillance; AI; platformed cultural production; or digital media and Indigenous life. We welcome scholars from a wide range of approaches, including cultural studies, political economy, media archaeology, science and technology studies, or journalism studies, among others. We also welcome those who have developed and applied their scholarship in research creation, activism, or digital production.

(2) Information and Media Policy and Law: We seek candidates with a research record related to policy or legal studies of networked cultures; media and information industries; media and democracy; or media labour. We welcome approaches from information studies, media studies of policy and law, journalism studies, and the critical discourse analysis of policy and law. A record of applied policy development or activism is also welcome, as are research programs that address key areas of Faculty commitment and interest, including Indigenous media policy or media, information and health.

With over 1100 students, FIMS (https://www.fims.uwo.ca/) is home to thriving undergraduate programs in Media, Information and Technoculture and Media in the Public Interest, and graduate programs in Media Studies, Library and Information Science, Health Information Science, Popular Music and Culture, and Journalism and Communication. We expect the successful candidate in each position to sustain a program of research excellence, to teach at the undergraduate level and in more than one program at the graduate level, and to contribute service to a Faculty that nourishes interdisciplinarity and values the critical integration of theory and practice.

FIMS is one of eleven academic Faculties at Western University, one of Canada’s foremost research-intensive institutions, located in London, Ontario (pop. 384,000). Since 1878, Western University has been committed to serving our communities through the pursuit of academic excellence and by providing students, faculty, and community members with life-long opportunities for intellectual, social, and cultural growth. We seek excellent students, faculty, and staff to join us in what has become known as the "Western Experience" - an opportunity to contribute to a better world through the development of new knowledge, new abilities, new connections, and new ways to make a difference.

Applicants must have completed a PhD in Media Studies, Information Studies, Communication, or a related field by the appointment start date of July 1, 2020. Please submit a cover letter outlining your interest in Position 1 or 2, your curriculum vitae, a writing sample (25 pages maximum), names and addresses of three academic references, evidence of teaching effectiveness, and a completed “Application for a Full-Time Faculty Position” form (available at https://www.uwo.ca/facultyrelations/pdf/full-time-application-form.pdf) by October 15, 2019. Address applications to Lisa Henderson, Professor and Dean, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Western University, and email them in one .pdf file to fimsdeanapps@uwo.ca.
Applications will be reviewed until the position is filled.

Positions are subject to budget approval and salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience. Applicants should have fluent written and oral communication skills in English. The University invites applications from all qualified individuals. Western is committed to employment equity and diversity in the workplace and welcomes applications from women, members of racialized groups/visible minorities, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, persons of any sexual orientation, and persons of any gender identity or gender expression.

In accordance with Canadian immigration requirements, priority will be given to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Accommodations are available for applicants with disabilities throughout the recruitment process. If you require accommodations for interviews or other meetings, please contact Ella Young, emyoung@uwo.ca."


The text above is a rendering of the formal letter posted in https://www.uwo.ca/facultyrelations/careers/pdf/FIMS-Probationary-2019.pdf (Accessed on 9/23/2019)

See also Western University Careers page: https://www.uwo.ca/facultyrelations/careers/faculty.html#media

Image credits: the eye and binoculars are from https://unsplash.com/. The Western Campus (fall 2018) picture is by V. Rubin.

On Saturday, September 14, 2019 FIMS at Western participated first time in the "Doors Open London" event. Many thanks to the community members who came out and had a chat with us! The Dean's Office count tells us we had over 150 people that stopped by that afternoon. Very exciting!

I'd also like to personally thank Sarah Cornwell and Tolu Asubiaro, LIS Doctoral Students, for taking their time to come be part of the LiT.RL team of researchers who talked to the visitors. What a nice way to contribute to the London community!

A couple of picture in this blog post show glimpses of the 5-poster exhibit about our News Verification Browser and the associated research on "fakes" in the news. The 2 computers were running live demos. We took these snapshots late in the afternoon once it was time to pack up and many people have already left.

Overall, the event was quite a success and thanks again to everyone who visited! Here are more details on this past event and also further information on where to see a recorded demo of the NV Browser.

 

The Disinformation and misinformation triangle (Rubin, 2019) is a conceptual model for ‘fake news’ epidemic, causal factors and interventions.
Author’s Keywords: disinformation, misinformation, deception; Internet, newspapers, fake news; machine learning, natural language processing; automated deception detection, automated satire detection, automated clickbait detection.

Suggested citation: Rubin, V. (2019), "Disinformation and misinformation triangle", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 5, pp. 1013-1034. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-12-2018-0209

Abstract: Purpose
This position paper treats disinformation and misinformation (intentionally deceptive and unintentionally inaccurate misleading information, respectively) as a socio-cultural technology-enabled epidemic in digital news, propagated via social media.
Design/methodology/approach
The proposed Disinformation and Misinformation Triangle is a conceptual model that identifies the three minimal causal factors occurring simultaneously to facilitate the spread of the epidemic at the societal level.
Findings
Following the epidemiological Disease Triangle model, the three interacting causal factors are translated into the digital news context: (1) the virulent pathogens are falsifications, clickbait, satirical ‘fakes’ and other deceptive or misleading news content; (2) the susceptible hosts are information-overloaded, time-pressed news readers lacking media literacy skills; and (3) the conducive environments are polluted poorly-regulated social media platforms that propagate and encourage the spread of various ‘fakes’.
Originality/value
The three types of interventions – automation, education, and regulation – are proposed as a set of holistic measures to reveal, and potentially control, predict and prevent further proliferation of the epidemic. Partial automated solutions with natural language processing, machine learning and various automated detection techniques are currently available, as exemplified here briefly. Automated solutions assist (but not replace) human judgements about whether news is truthful and credible. Information literacy efforts require further in-depth understanding of the phenomenon and interdisciplinary collaboration outside of the traditional library and information science, incorporating media studies, journalism, interpersonal psychology and communication perspectives.

What are we working on now? What's the next step?

With the support and encouragement from the FIMS Dean's Office, our LiT.RL team has recently entered an AI competition to automate the fact-checking process by flagging whether a claim is true, false, or partly true. The Schulich's Leaders Prize, "Fact or Fake News?" is run Canada-wide and aims to address the issue of misinformation and deception in online news. The task itself is a necessary step, given the sheer volume of the data online,toxicity of persistent misinformation and disinformation attempts, and a general lack of platform regulation, at least at the moment. I discuss it in depth in the academic settings.

In our recent past, the team developed a proof-of-concept suite of software tools, the News Verification Browser that automatically identifies a general sense of deceptiveness in the news. We targeted 3 types of "fakes" specifically with three detectors: clickbait, satirical fakes, and falsehood detectors. We made our research widely available in research and development literature and our source code is available in an open source repository, GitHub, for free to the general public (download, install, play with) and R&D community improve on.

We are now off to the next finish line. Our next step is to develop a more refined system that can operate on a level of individual claims such as "Obama is Muslim" = [FALSE] or "Justin Trudeau has served as the Prime Minister of Canada since 2015" = [TRUE].

 

This is an incredibly challenging and sophisticated task but, I believe, that even an attempt to solve Phase 1 task by our academic team is valuable in many ways:

  1. Our participation in the DataCup extends our previous research agenda from the general sense of deceptiveness to mimicking a very complex human task of fact-checking on a claim-by-claim basis.
  2. We reinforce a socially-aware three-pronged solution to "the fake news epidemic" (to Automate, Educate, Regulate, as I recently described in the Journal of Documentation). Automation is key to the volume of misinformation to be handled but looking at AI solutions teaches us humanity. We are constantly learning new ways to inform media literacy efforts in Canadian education.
  3. The attempts of all teams in this Competition will lay ground for other researchers to proceed with their R&D. The findings are planned to be made publicly available via open source repositories and disseminated in scientific journals, conferences, and public media outlets. We will be happy to spread the word, once the intense Phase 1 deadline is met on November 18th.
  4. Needless to say, as the team leader, I am proud to create more training opportunities for my already very capable Doctoral students at FIMS, Western.

We are excited about the opportunity to give it a try!

On Saturday, September 14, many units on campus will be participating in a London event called "Doors Open London", where and in the city open our doors to the public. Some of you and your families may want to be part of the FIMS events. If so, you could join us for our Library, Studio, and Research Exhibits.
One of our researchers, Amanda Grzyb, and her team will have a photo exhibit for a memory project in El Salvador.
Marni Harrington, the Associate Librarian in charge of the FIMS Graduate Library, and her staff are setting up a Land Acknowledgement exhibit.
My Doctoral Students from the LiT.RL team and I, Vicki Rubin, will also welcome you when you stop by and be happy to chat with you. We have a couple of computers at the FIMS Library dedicated to visitors trying out our innovative software that can automatically identify clickbait, satirical fakes, and falsehoods in news. You can see how it works in a two-minute video demo, or you might want to give it a try on any of your favorite news websites. Come talk to us, the researchers, who were involved in its creation:
How did we do it? How good is it really? And, how much does it help with the "fake news" epidemic?
The LiT.RL team will have large academic posters with illustrations to walk you through the Research & Development process from the conception of the idea in 2014/15 to its current proof-of-concept tool, News Verification Browser. It's an open source software (available on GitHub) and you can download, install, play with or improve on it, if you're so inclined.
Hope to see you there between 11 am and 3 pm, at the FIMS and Nursing Building, 3rd floor , at the Graduate Library.
Other Western Sites you may want to stop by include:

Nicole is joining the FIMS PhD Program in LIS and we are excited to have her on board of our LiT.RL team! Nicole is no stranger to the group. She has previously volunteered by doing some transcriptions and data entry, she has set in on several lab meetings and has been part of 8-months guided research study with Dr. Rubin. Her profile will be updated as we go. Meanwhile, she already has a couple of poster presentations behind her belt, and a short paper in the ASIS&T2018 Proceedings. She is currently working with Dr. Rubin on a joint-authorship book chapter that reports the results of her guided research project in her MLIS capacity. Not a bad way to enter a PhD with a couple of first-authored pubs!

[Here is one of them:
Delellis, Nicole and Rubin, Victoria L. (2018) "Educators' Perceptions of Information Literacy and Skills Required to Spot 'Fake News' ", In the Proceedings for the Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T): Building and Sustaining an Ethical Future with Emerging Technology, November 10-14, 2019, Vancouver, Canada]

 

is a newly renamed course that is in its essence a humanities-friendly introduction to Natural Language Processing (NLP). The course is now in the process of being revamped and updated. Its content is in flux due to the latest research and development in the field, and the active uptake of these technologies (such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Translate) by the general public. The course is likely to be offered in the 2021/2022 academic year, after Dr. Rubin's Sabbatical (in 2020/2021). [It was last formally offered as LIS 9732/9832: LANGUAGE AND COMPUTER TECHNOLOGIES FOR LIBRARIES AND BEYOND described here].
Course Description
Introduction to linguistic and computational aspects of natural language processing technologies. Familiarity with underlying principles and techniques required to perform all levels of language understanding and processing of naturally occurring text. Critical assessment of the use of language technologies in a variety of applications.
This course will be offered to MLIS, MMJC, Media Studies, and HIS program students. It is relevant to MLIS Program Content Areas - Information Organization/Design and Information Technology Management. Doctoral students are welcome to discuss their participation in the course as well.

Some light digital work is awaiting you... We are still looking for a few more participants to try out our newly developed AI tool, the News Verification Browser. The NV Browser flags clickbait, falsehoods and satirical fakes in online news. For example, see the BBC's online front page for Thursday, 11th of July, 2019, and how the tool assigns colours to the degree of "clickbaitiness:"

Come work with Sarah (scornwel@uwo.ca), a Research Assistants at the Lab who is leading this Usability Study. She'll help you set up the NV Browser on your laptop.
Take it home with you and do a few simple tasks with it.
Tell us how it went, what you liked, and what you didn't.
Get some cash ($5).
See how a study is run.
Help us improve the tool.
Be part of research at Western!
Also, please see the leaflet below for study participant inclusion criteria.

 

As the academic term is coming to its end, I am formally starting the process of assembling materials for an 8-10 chapter book, tentatively called “Misinformation and Disinformation: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.” This book will be loosely based on the course topics I just taught at FIMS, Western. The course goals are described on my Teaching Website here. In brief, it is a thorough look at the notions of truth, deception, misinformation, disinformation and information manipulation from several evidence-based branches of science (such as interpersonal psychology and automated deception detection) and common societal practices (such as information literacy in libraries and credibility assessment in criminal cases).

The intended audience for this nascent book is students or instructors in North American academic institutions. It will most likely target audiences at various Library and Information Science, Journalism, Communication and Media Studies schools.

What makes me qualified to contribute in the area of mis-/disinformation?
I have been reading, researching, and publishing shorter academic works in the areas of deception and deception detection since 2010. I have supervised development of the deception detection associated technologies. The time is right for an longer form publication!

How can you help?

If you are a Student or an Instructor, your feedback on inclusion of topics in the book chapters is potentially helpful. Please use comment section below, come talk to me at FIMS, or write to me directly.

If you are an Editor or a Publisher looking to commission a book on the topic, please write to me directly.

If you are a Journalist or an Expert in the field who can put me in touch with a respected publishing house or editor, please write to me directly.