June 22, 2017

A mobile game that tracks falsehoods, a tool that busts lie-spewing internet bots and projects aimed at increasing the reach of fact checks are among the winners of a $1 million challenge from The Knight Prototype Fund aimed at improving the flow of accurate information.

The 20 ideas, which are eligible for $50,000 each, come from universities, news organizations and nonprofits across the United States and propose tackling misinformation by educating news consumers, pulling back the curtain on sources of fake news and making fact-checking more memorable and shareable. (Disclosure: The Knight Foundation funds Poynter’s coverage of local news.)

The winning projects are:

Breaking filter bubbles in science journalism by the University of California, Santa Cruz (Project lead: Erika Check Hayden | Santa Cruz, California @Erika_Check, @UCSC_SciCom): Producing visually-engaging science journalism around topics such as climate change and genetics, to determine whether content delivered by a trusted messenger in a culturally-relevant context has greater reach. The articles will be tested through the digital platform EscapeYourBubble.com, which distributes curated content to users across ideological divides.

Calling Bullshit in the Age of Fake News by the University of Washington (Project lead: Jevin West | Seattle @jevinwest, @UW_iSchool): Developing a curriculum and set of tools to teach students and the public to better assess quantitative information and combat misinformation, with a particular emphasis on data, visualizations and statistics.

ChartCheck by Periscopic (Project lead: Megan Mermis | Portland, Oregon | @periscopic): Addressing the spread of misinformation through charts, graphs and data visualizations by fact-checking these resources and publishing results. The team will also build tools to evaluate the spread of these charts on social media and the Internet.

Crosscheck by Vanderbilt University in collaboration with First Draft (Project lead: Lisa Fazio and Claire Wardle | Nashville, Tennessee | @lkfazio, @cward1e, @firstdraftnews, @crosscheck): Using design features to make correct news more memorable, so that people can recall it more easily when faced with false information, using a platform initially developed in France to address misinformation around the country’s election.

Facts Matter by PolitiFact (Project lead: Aaron Sharockman | St. Petersburg, Florida | @asharock, @PolitiFact): Helping to improve trust in fact-checking, particularly among people who identify as conservative, through experiments including in-person events; a mobile-game that tracks misconceptions about specific facts; diverse commentators who would assess fact-checking reports; and a study of the language used in these reports to determine their effect on perceptions of trustworthiness.

Glorious ContextuBot by Bad Idea Factory (Project lead: Daniel Schultz | Philadelphia | @biffud, @slifty): Helping people become better consumers of online audio and video content through a tool that provides the original source of individual clips and identifies who else has discussed it on the news.

Hoaxy Bot-o-Meter by Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research (Project lead: Filippo Menczer | Bloomington, Indiana | @Botometer, @truthyatindiana): Developing a tool to uncover attempts to use Internet bots to boost the spread of misinformation and shape public opinion. The tool aims to reveal how this information is generated and broadcasted, how it becomes viral, its overall reach and how it competes with accurate information for placement on user feeds.

Immigration Lab by Univision News (Project lead: Ronny Rojas | Miami | @ronnyrojas, @UniNoticias): Engaging undocumented immigrants on issues that affect their lives by creating a reliable news resource to help them access and gather information. The project team will do on-the-ground research in communities with a high percentage of undocumented immigrants and learn about their media literacy skills, news consumption habits and needs, and trusted information sources.

KQED Learn by KQED (Project lead: Randall Depew | San Francisco | @randydepew, @KQEDEdSpace): Encouraging young people to ask critical questions that deepen learning and improve media literacy through KQED Learn, a free online platform for students and teachers that reveals ways to ask good questions, investigate answers and share conclusions.

Media Literacy @ Your Library by American Library Association in collaboration with the Center for News Literacy (Project lead: Samantha Oakley | Chicago | @ALALibrary, @NewsLiteracy): Developing an adult media literacy program in five public libraries, including a series of online learning sessions, resources and an in-person workshop to train library workers to help patrons become more informed media consumers.

News Inequality Project by Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram (Project leads: Hamdan Azhar, Cathy Deng, Christian MilNeil, and Leslie Shapiro | Portland, Maine | @HamdanAzhar, @cthydng, @c_milneil, @lmshap, @pressherald): Developing a web-based analytics dashboard to help media organizations and community organizers understand how – and how often – different communities are covered in news outlets over time.

News Quality Score Project (Project lead: Frederic Filloux | Palo Alto, California | @filloux): Creating a tool to surface quality journalism from the web, at scale and in real-time, through algorithms and machine learning. The tool will evaluate and score content on criteria ranging from the notoriety of authors and publishers to an analysis of various components of the story structure.

NewsTracker.org by PBS NewsHour and Miles O’Brien Productions (Project lead: Cameron Hickey | Washington, D.C. | @cameronhickey, @newshour): Developing a tool that combines online news content with engagement data from social media and other sources to help journalists and others better understand the scale, scope and shape of the misinformation problem. The tool will enable content analysis by gathering data about what is being written, by whom, where it is distributed, and the size of the audience consuming it.

Putting Civic Online Reasoning in Civics Class by Stanford History Education Group, Stanford University (Project lead: Sam Wineburg | Palo Alto, California | @SHEF_Stanford, @samwineburg): Creating professional development resources for teachers to become better consumers of digital content, in addition to classroom-ready materials that they can use to help students find and assess information online.

Social Media Interventions by Boston University (Project lead: Jacob Groshek | Boston | @jgroshek, @EMSatBU): Experimenting with the effectiveness of combatting the spread of misinformation through real-time online interventions, such as direct messages to users who post or share false information.

The Documenters Project by City Bureau (Project lead: Darryl Holliday | Chicago | @d_holli, @city_bureau): Strengthening local media coverage and building trust in journalism by creating an online network of citizen “documenters” who receive training in the use of journalistic ethics and tools, attend public civic events and produce short summaries that are posted online as a public resource.

Veracity.ai (Project lead: Danny Rogers | Baltimore): Helping to curb the financial incentives of creating misleading content with automatically-updated lists of “fake news” websites and easy-to-deploy tools that allow ad buyers to block, in bulk, the domains where misinformation is propagated.

Viz Lab (Project lead: Susie Cagle, Caroline Sinders and Francis Tseng | San Francisco | @susie_c, @carolinesinders, @frnsys): Developing a dashboard to track and visualize images and ‘memes,’ as common sources of fake news, to enable journalists and researchers to more easily understand the origins of the image, its promoters and where it might have been altered and then redistributed.

Who Said What by Joostware (Project lead: Delip Rao | San Francisco | @deliprao, @joostware): Helping people more easily fact-check audio and video news clips with a search tool that annotates millions of these clips and allows users to explore both what is said and the identity of the speaker.

Technical Schema for Credibility by Meedan in collaboration with Hacks/Hackers (Project lead: Xiao Mina | San Francisco | @anxiaostudio, @meedan, @hackshackers): Creating a clear, standardized framework to define the credibility of a piece of content, how conclusions about its credibility were reached, and how to communicate that information effectively.

The projects, which are funded through Knight’s Prototype Fund with backing from Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation, have nine months to build an initial concept, according to a press release from The Knight Foundation. They will then display their early versions and share what they learned at a demo day.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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