EWN wins news innovation challenge with misinformation alert

EWN has won the Cape Town leg of the Global Editors Network (GEN) Editors Lab hackathon, with an innovative project to help stop the spread of misinformation.

The GEN, in collaboration with Google News Lab and Code for Africa, brought together some of the best media innovators in South Africa for the two-day hackathon that was designed to find solutions for the future of news around the issue of “Misinformation, the war on truth.”

In less than 48 hours, EWN built a messaging-focused, machine learning artificial intelligence that can detect mis- and dis-information on ‘dark social’ which includes private messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and flags it before it gets passed on.

The EWN team, including Camilla Bath, Bruce Thwaits and Cameron Moodley prototyped a Chrome extension that allows users to check in real time whether any message they are about to forward on, is fake news.

Their prototype is called Ukweli, which is Swahili for ‘truth’, and the team are keen to turn the prototype into a real platform. “Think of it as antivirus software for your chat groups,” said one of the team members, Camilla Bath.

“We plan to make a start with our own base of hoax messages, gleaned from our active 16 000-strong WhatsApp community plus our other social media platforms, to train the A.I. and to continually build up the repository of misinformation,” she added.

The judges were particularly impressed by the choice of Ukweli’s delivery mechanism: “The fact that a lot of misinformation comes from dark social networks that aren't really monitored means that there's a real need to go into those networks,” said jury members Chris Orwa and Eric Mugendi.

“The tool is really useful because it compels you as an individual and gives you the tools to stop the spread of misinformation.”

EWN’s editor in chief, Katy Katopodis said: “This is extremely exciting for EWN as it positions us globally in the fight against fake news. The truth always needs to be louder than the lies and the misinformation. This tool will empower audiences to take up the “truth” mantle and check and double check stories and messages before forwarding them. A project like this shows our deep commitment as a newsroom to rooting out fake news. This is a worthy acknowledgement of our world class technical and digital innovators, who are continuously striving to help audiences to make sense of the news, in interesting ways.”

The team will go on to compete in the 'World Cup of news innovation' at the Global Editors Network summit in Lisbon in May 2018.

Visit www.ewn.co.za for credible news.

Cameron Moodley and Bruce Thwaits, two of the three EWN team members (third team member, Camilla Bath not pictured).