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US federal government funds $5M software to turn citizens into online “misinformation” responders

A new scheme.

Journalism group Hacks/Hackers was awarded $5 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop software that would encourage ordinary Americans to warn their friends and family about misinformation in their online speech. Users of the software would confront alleged misinformation by replying with text recommended by the software.

Hacks/Hackers has been tasked with developing the “Analysis and Response Toolkit for Trust (ARTT), a suite of expert-informed resources that are intended to provide guidance and encouragement to individuals and communities as they address contentious or difficult topics online,” the NSF group said in an October 24 article.

According to a video demonstration of the software, the tool will tell users if a social media post is “harmful” and, if it is, it “suggests relevant responses through tailored response examples or templates” that users can copy and paste as responses.

“Every day there are motivated citizens, like librarians, health communicators, and amateur volunteers, who engage with the misinformation that is posted by their peers and make efforts to share reliable information to empower their communities,” the video said.

Another video by ARTT claimed that social media efforts to fight misinformation are not as effective in influencing users’ views as efforts made by friends.

“That’s why we want to focus on these peer connections when it comes to having these conversations online … Instead of coming to you from the platform, it’s actually coming to you from a friend,” the video said.

The group led by Hacks/Hackers is also working on Wikipedia tools, which will determine those that are a “credible source” on Covid vaccines and prevent sources that are not credible from being cited on Wikipedia.

The list of credible sources has started to be organized, with outlets like the Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian classified as “reliable,” and outlets like The Federalist and The Daily Wire classified as “unreliable” or “conspiracy.”

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