When the Syracuse University men’s basketball team ended its NCAA Tournament run last month, it also marked the end of a long season for the student media broadcast team at WAER. Newhouse School of Public Communications seniors Corey Spector, Cooper…
Newhouse Professors Receive Funding for Work on Technology to Combat Fake News
The 48-month subcontract is part of the Semantic Forensics (SemaFor) program, funded by an $11.9 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract with PAR Government Systems Corp. The program seeks to create a system for automatic detection, attribution and characterization of falsified media assets.
“The challenge of fake news and disinformation is something we as communications educators have an obligation to address,” says Newhouse Dean Mark J. Lodato. “This is a new area of research for the Newhouse School, and allows us to contribute to the ongoing national conversation about the importance of reliable, fact-based information for the health of our society. Steve and Gina are doing important work.”
Masiclat and Luttrell have already built a preliminary theoretical framework consisting of an eight-dimensional analysis, and will work with researchers to test and refine their ideas.
They will create large data sets—a massive archive of both real and fake news stories based on their theoretical framework—that will train and validate AI algorithms. “Over the next four years we will evaluate various aspects of our proposed ‘theory of semantic consistency’ that can be used to create and test AI algorithms that detect key flaws,” Masiclat says. “This will allow us to develop a method for separating reliable journalism from deliberate misinformation.”
Wider access to automated manipulation technologies, coupled with the ease of sharing provided by social media platforms, has increased the threat posed by manipulated media, according to DARPA.
“This work signals Newhouse’s commitment to preserving the First Amendment and addressing the impact misinformation spread across social media has on society,” Luttrell says. “The proliferation of fake news over the past few years has caused numerous problems. Grappling with the many questions plaguing the role of truth and trust in news media, social media and society is paramount. It’s our intention that this research will help detect and combat disinformation.”
Masiclat and Luttrell will form a team of doctoral student researchers, based in Newhouse’s Experimental Media and W2O Emerging Insights Labs, to assist with the research.