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Expert Teleworkshop

Expert Teleworkshop: technology solutions to combat the malicious use of social media by non-state actors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Turin, Italy -

Turin, 22 May 2020. UNICRI organized the second Expert Teleworkshop to discuss the malicious use of social media by non-state actors during a bio-emergency with a specific focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several criminal and extremist organizations have been recently very active on the social platforms in the attempt to undermine trust in governments during the crisis or maliciously mislead citizens about response measures. The event organized by UNICRI focused on existing and potentially innovative technology solutions to prevent and combat disinformation and misinformation. These include technologies such as Big Data visualization to identify the spread of large-scale disinformation; artificial intelligence (AI) systems to guide the public in detecting fake news; and digital media literacy tools and platforms to identify and verify them.

The Teleworkshop was attended by more than 40 participants from Member States, international organizations, research institutions and technology companies. Among the high-level speakers, Dan Faggella, Founder and CEO of Emerj Artificial Intelligence Research, illustrated how technology can be used to programmatically generate content and what are the possible implications, including the risk of falsifying evidence and producing disinformation and misinformation. Sara-Jayne Terp, Founder of Bodacea Light Industries, and Manlio De Domenico, Head of Complex Multilayer Networks Lab Center for Information Technology of the Fondazione Bruno Kessler, then presented examples of technologies to analyse big data, identify social dynamics and track down disinformation incidents. Anna-Sophie Harling, Europe Managing Director of NewsGuard, and Baybars Örsek, Director of Poynter International Fact-Checking Network, also provided examples of techniques employed by fact-checkers to monitor the reliability of online news sites and their associated social media accounts.

During the event, participants discussed about the advantages and challenges related to the different technology options. A key aspect underscored is that Big Data based technologies and AI can be powerful tools for people to detect and debunk fake news, but cannot replace them.

A Report on this topic will be published by UNICRI soon.

UNICRI, through SIRIO is analysing risks and benefits associated with Weapons Mass Destruction (WMD)-relevant advances in science and technology, with the primary aim of identifying technology solutions that can be piloted to match the needs of Member States to prevent WMD terrorism. At the same time, through its Centre for AI and Robotics, UNICRI is actively exploring programmatically generated content, such as deepfakes. In this regard, UNICRI has organized a hackathon challenge to develop deepfake detection tools and will release a technical report later this year in cooperation with Europol and Trend Micro on the malicious use of AI, including deepfakes.