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WUT at the head of a project investigating hate speech and fake news

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The research will be carried out by specialists from Poland, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain, photo: pixabay

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An international team of scientists will take a closer look at social media messages that lead to social divisions. Researchers will analyse available data and propose solutions to the problem. The project is led by Prof. Katarzyna Budzyńska from the Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences of the Warsaw University of Technology.

“Hate speech and fake news are a violation of the basic condition for trust and being trustworthy, both of which are crucial for constructive, reasonable and responsible communication, as well as for the organisation of society based around cooperation and ethical principles,” Prof. Budzyńska points out. “These behaviours ultimately lead to polarisation: a situation in which social media users constantly attack each other in an emotional way, focusing on what divides people rather than what unites them.”

As part of the iTRUST project, researchers will focus on two areas: gender equality and public health. The choice of such topics is not unintended – both these issues cause extremely heated discussions on social media.

Researchers will analyse textual data for strategies related to the use of ethos, pathos, and framing techniques. They will also propose new tools: a methodology for large-scale trust analytics to detect default patterns and trends in hate speech and fake news, as well as empirical approaches to how these patterns affect the polarisation of online communication and society as a whole. The researchers will also present possible interventions against hate speech, fake news and polarisation. They will be aided by artificial intelligence.

“Our project places great emphasis on information activities and raising user awareness. They will be undertaken in cooperation with the media, museums and other partners,” adds Prof. Budzyńska.

Specialists from Poland (Warsaw University of Technology), Belgium (KU Leuven, UCLouvain), Switzerland (Università della Svizzera italiana) and Spain (Artificial Intelligence Research Institute), will combine their skills, experience and knowledge for the benefit of the project.

The project will last three years. Work is scheduled to begin this year.

“Our long-term ambition is to establish a European network and foundations for trustworthy artificial intelligence in response to the European Commission’s strategy for Europe Fit for the Digital Age,” says Prof. Budzyńska.

The iTRUST (“Interventions against polarisation in society for trustworthy social media: from diagnosis to therapy”) project received funding through a competition organised by the CHIST-ERA network, which supports research in the field of information and communication technologies.

The New Ethos: a team headed by Prof. Budzyńska, will be responsible for the implementation of the project at the Warsaw University of Technology. The team will explore strategies for appealing to the ethos, i.e. the character of people (speakers). Since antiquity, these strategies have been recognised as important and effective tools for influencing others in public communication.

The iTRUST project is the result of the team’s work on another project – Con2Con (“From controversy to consensus: an analysis of conflict in online public discourse”), financed through the “Excellence Initiative - Research University” programme at the Warsaw University of Technology (the CyberiADa-2 competition).