Combatting online disinformation

LI | PROJECT TYPE: LARGE | Debunk EU | FUNDING: €315,000

Debunk EU from DELFI, the largest online news publisher in the Baltics, is an initiative to tackle fake news online using a combination of artificial intelligence-based analytics and a dedicated community of volunteers, known as ‘elves’.

In the Baltics, cyberattacks and disinformation are major problems. To give a sense of the scale of the issue, Debunk EU, a company developed to fight these fake news campaigns, analysed 9,881 articles between April and June 2020. It spotted 617 disinformation cases – over 6% – related to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the context of Covid-19. Those misinformation stories had the potential to be read 123.4 million times.

We're constantly developing the tool and hope to create a community in which we can share knowledge.

Ieva Ivanauskaitė
Head of Business Development at DELFI

In order to provide analyses of online content at that sort of scale, the company created advanced web-scraping tools and smart filters to automatically detect potential disinformation. Daily, weekly or monthly notifications are sent to a network of fact checkers who've earned the title ‘elves’ due to their troll-fighting powers. This mixture of tech and human intervention means that articles with harmful content can be flagged, and journalists automatically notified of misleading articles.

Since its launch in 2018, Debunk EU has worked with organisations in 17 countries around the world. DNI funding has been pivotal to enabling the resources, developers and specialists required for the project. One of its main learnings is the importance of mixing technology with human expertise. “We needed to hire people who had knowledge of political science and international relations, alongside developers who would be able to work with machine learning and artificial intelligence,” says Ieva Ivanauskaitė, Head of Business Development at DELFI. Building on its success in the Baltics, the project is going further, says Ivanauskaitė. “We're constantly developing the tool and hope to create a community in which we can share knowledge.”

In Lithuania, when we need to defend our country against propaganda and fake news, we are united.

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