FANDANGO will put to extensive test all developed tools through a series of three pilots in well-structured use cases to assess its benefits and also provide evidence of the usability of the provided tools. The main concept of the piloting procedures within FANDANGO will be to stress the cross-sectorial, cross-lingual and cross-border aspect of the FANDANGO’s solutions.
Climate, Immigration and European Context are typical scenarios where fake news can influence perception with respect to social and business actions. Such examples are: a) Fake news regarding climate data, which generate confusion towards the potential threats of climate changes that can effect the society’s and business’ choices; b) Fake news regarding immigrants, where criminal events are immediately imputed to refuges, which may result to shape a common racist belief in the society, c) Fake News on European Context – either by fake news published by online sites, or by hacking or misinformation – are viewed as a serious threat to the integration of Europea and, even to the democratic process.
“97% of climate scientists agree with climate change”. Many may have read a statement like this in news articles and it appears to be a very convincing call to action. By now most of the world is convinced of the trustfulness of this statement, but statements from online resources and even world leaders seem to believe there is more to this statement than meets the eye.
When contesting Climate statements, it has become a habit to attack the research that led to the facts instead of the facts themselves. While this seems like an easy way to challenge any kind of statement, in case of climate based ones they often have a point. Climate statements often don’t take the whole picture into account, but the reason for that isn’t always foul play. The requirement to be brief and to the point often causes some bad decisions when it comes down to formulating a fact. And of course this is all that is needed to claim the whole fact as being false. A better integration with true data is needed, it is clear to everyone that to validate facts you need data.
Whole research projects have even been started to validate certain statements like the “97%”-one above, but not all of the research papers resulting out can be considered representative enough due to their research approach. For example, one research initiative sent out a two question survey to 10,257 scientists of which 3,146 responded. From these 3,146 scientists, 96.2% came from North America. Due to this distorted outcome, the researchers decided to take 79 experts from the sample and used their survey responses as being the basis for their statement.
One can doubt the way the research was conducted and the results that came out of it, but only for this specific research effort. Additional research efforts took different approaches to try and verify the consensus. The research behind “The Consensus Project” for example used approximately 4000 research papers taking a position on global warming and found a 97.2% consensus amongst climate experts on the human cause of global warming.
The idea of this scenario is to use many data silos, coming mostly from ESA earth observation, but not only, to validate facts and to give journalist a better access to data about climate change and environmental aspects.
From a journalistic point of view, the job of fact-checking not only the content, but also the context in which a statement was made becomes very hard, especially at the rate new information is being produced. In case of the above-mentioned statement, a journalist could have checked where the first article came from (naturalnews) and check the reliability of that news source. Doing so would result in Natural News to score very low on reliability causing the truthfulness of the article to be rather limited. The accessibility and the integration of different data sources in an easy way for non-technical people, together with a proper data visualisation tools can be a perfect support in this domain, where scientific aspects should work together with communication and media users and experts.
Populist discourses, us-versus-them worldviews, hate speeches against those who are “different” enjoying a widespread and often growing audience in Europe -partly explained by mass media’s functioning mechanisms-, certainly wider than more nuanced approaches to an issue. It is demanding, after all, to have an informed opinion, and there are always those eager to offer a simpler biased perspective for their own political or economic benefit. This is a challenge shared by all European countries, especially during times of economic crisis.
Prejudices are not only an obstacle for a fruitful public debate and effective citizen participation, they are also an essential catalyst for the dissemination of fake news due to confirmation bias, the tendency -deeply rooted in human behaviour- to search for, interpret, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs. Confirmation bias, combined with the algorithms of social media environments like Facebook, designed to personalize the information users see and maximize their engagement based on past clicks, isolate users into ‘filter bubbles’ with an abundance of messages reinforcing their beliefs, no matter their accuracy. Even worse, the misleading information is sometimes not just a well-intended misunderstanding that propagates organically, but a lie specifically designed to exploit existing biases in society and spread artificially in bad faith to achieve political or economic gains. Hence the need to monitor the propagation of fake news social media, detect successful ones quickly and automatically and counteract them with trustable, verifiable information. Again in order to do this it is necessary to oppose to these fake believes with facts and true data, especially if it is possible to aggregate different kind of statistics and population data, but also integrating data on daily bases.
In immigration topics, perceptions are often far away from reality. A 2014 global survey from Ipsos MORI6, the second largest market research organisation in the United Kingdom, based on 11,527 interviews conducted in 14 countries around the world, found huge gaps between citizen perceptions and reality on a number of key issues. (The countries were Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain and the United States of America.) For example, when asked about immigration, the average guess across the 14 countries was that 24% of the population was born abroad, when the actual figure was 11%. Some European countries showed massive overstimates: in Italy the public thought 30% were immigrants, more than four times the right answer, 7%; and in Belgium the estimate was 29%, almost triple the actual figure, 10%. Questions about religion –an issue closely linked to xenophobia- showed similar results: when asked to estimate the proportion of their population that are Muslim, the average guess across the countries was 16%, versus an actual proportion of 3%. In France in particular, respondents estimated 31% of the population was Muslim, when the actual figure was only 8%. These ‘perception gaps’ were shown to exist also in questions related to rising unemployment or increasing crime, arguments often used to justify anti-immigration and anti-refugees policies.
Immigration inside the European Union is not without its enemies either, and citizens from new member estates have sometimes been accused of abusing subsidies and benefits in their new host countries, i.e. of being ‘benefit tourists’. The Danish Peoples’ Party won the majority of Danish seats in the EU Parliament in the 2014 election on an anti-immigration and anti-Schengen platform: its claim that Danish welfare was being ‘exported’ to Romania and Bulgaria and that Danish workers are unemployed because of cheap Polish labour received wide support and had a clear impact on the public debate. These claims have shown to be false, though, as reported by Eurofound7: “the Confederation of Danish Employers published an analysis of the effect of migrant workers on the country’s economy, and concluded workers from Poland and Romania are a net benefit to the Danish state since migrants pay more tax than they receive in benefits, pensions and other forms of welfare such as child allowances.” In 2013, the European Commission had reached conclusions matching those of the Danish report, asserting8 “EU citizens from other Member States use welfare benefits no more intensively than the host country’s nationals. Mobile EU citizens are less likely to receive disability and unemployment benefits in most countries studied. […] The majority of mobile EU citizens move to another Member State to work and puts into perspective the dimension of the so called benefit tourism which is neither widespread nor systematic.” Despite the Comission clearly stating that “workers from other Member States are net contributors to the public finances of the host country,” prejudices are hard to eradicate.
The goal of the pilot is validating the FANDANGO platform and the data lakes aggregate to fight public misconceptions, stop the spread of fake news and offer rigorous and verifiable information, allowing users and citizens to easily access the underlying facts. The pilot will be successful if it weakens and helps abolish prejudices that threaten the construction of a free, equal, diverse and respect-based Europe.
The Fandango immigration pilot will:
Gather, standardise, integrate and make available reliable data, creating a factual integrated data silo that can be easily and quickly used to counter fake news on immigration. For the repository to be trusted, it’s essential that input sources are official ones, and that the aggregation process is transparent and respects the traceability of the information, that is exactly the goal of this project.
Analyse existing European data from opinion polls and barometers (e.g. Eurobarometer) to investigate how the population opinions and feelings match (or not) the actual facts. Do people perceive the immigration reality as it really is?
Combining both sources of data (factual reality and perception), the pilot will create journalistic materials to reach the largest possible population. In order to achieve this, articles will be published in multiple languages via associated media partners. They will include graphic and data visualizations showing, at a single glance, the gap between myths and reality, so that they can be easily viralizable on their own via social networks. Evidence and data-based memes against fake memes.
The European context
The last, but not least application scenario will impact the European Context: last years Europe is, in a certain way under attack from main point of views and from many directions, Fake News play a malicious role in the attack.
The grounding idea of this scenario is the aggregation of data around European community, citizens, budget, and so on in order to defend Europe itself from Fake News or claims that every day are spread from many different channels. For instance, the newspaper “Independent” states:
“The parallels between Trump’s sensational victory and the vote for Brexit have been well-documented and slightly overcooked. You can’t always read across the Atlantic. What the two earthquakes did have in common was the way they were secured in what has been dubbed the era of “post-truth politics” based on appeals to emotion rather than policies and facts.”
FANDANGO project would like to use the same technologies and models used by fake news creators and propagators (e.g. Big Data, AI, Psychographics) , but in a positive way to contrast the fake news overflow about European matters and European political matters. It is time to properly react to this phenomenon, if even “The Guardian” sustains “Britons have voted to leave the European Union in a campaign noted for abundant lies.” The idea for this scenario is that is possible to aggregate and to make more accessible data for many different source, with specific reference to European History, everyday life, law and political decisions.
As baseline of this scenario is the experience done by ANSA partner in a just-started project about European Data News Hub creation, this project will aggregate different European News agencies to coordinate an unique data news portal and to communicate news to citizens.
In this European Data News Hub high-quality news material will be published on a website which is open to international media and end users in Europe and abroad. This portal already integrated tools to monitor social media and other user generated content, but also data sources, such Eurostat, Eurobarometer or the Europe Media Monitor and it will include different formats, such as text, photo gallery, still infographics as well as interactive video and easy graphics plus data to graphics. In addition, during the project life (starting in 2017) a set of the best suited text, video-graphics and still graphics done about EU matters will be selected, together with more news agencies and data journalism experts will be invited to participate bringing in their material. This portal will be the natural baseline for the integration of further more data oriented sources in order to validate the FANDANGO platform in a context where data on Europe can be accessed by newsrooms and journalists to validate news and information, so this experience will be used to create and aggregate different data silos in a unique data lake that can provide European Data to dismantle by data journalist and media users the increasing number of fake news on Europe created without any real fact or data verification.