Twitter ‘lie detector’ in development

Posted on February 25, 2014


In a move to stop false rumours from spreading on the social media site, experts from several universities have come together to develop a Twitter ‘lie detector’.

Named after the mythical Greek personification of fame, the Pheme programme is being backed by European Union funding, with research for the new software taking place at five universities across Europe.

The software will be developed to spot information circulating on the social media site’s news feed and then verify it in real time. Pheme will first check the authority of the post itself, such as whether it is from a recognised news provider or a normal Twitter user, and then search the Internet for other stories that could prove or disprove the story.

Pheme will then be able to make a judgement as to whether the false information is in one of four categories:

• Speculation
• Controversy
• Misinformation (a lie unknowingly continued by the post’s author)
• Disinformation (a deliberately posted lie)

The University of Sheffield has been one of the institutions involved in developing Pheme. Dr Kalina Bontcheva, lead researcher for the university, has said that, at the moment, false information is able to rapidly spread throughout Twitter unhindered. Bontcheva added that:

“This makes it difficult to respond to rumours, for example, for the emergency services to quash a lie in order to keep a situation calm.”

As Pheme would be able to draw from many current search technologies already available, Bontcheva believes that the software will be able to competently handle the vast amounts of information posted to Twitter. A working prototype may be ready in 18 months.

Richard is a Web Content Editor at Engage Web. He has had work published in a number of independent magazines and spends much of his spare time writing short stories.
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