Hackathon sprouts ideas to tackle fake news

Some of the tertiary students working to come up with ideas to improve the fact-checking process using technology.
Some of the tertiary students working to come up with ideas to improve the fact-checking process using technology.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Some 140 tertiary students put their heads together yesterday to come up with innovative ideas that tackle the problem of fake news.

The bright ideas ranged from applications that cross-check rumours with trusted news sites to chatbots that alert readers before they share news from dubious sources.

The event was a hackathon to solve the increasingly rampant scourge of false news circulating online by making it easy for users to quickly verify if a piece of information is real.

Over the course of the day, students, working in teams, looked at ways to improve the fact-checking process, and discussed what could work using technology. They later presented a working demonstration of their ideas.

The event was organised by the National University of Singapore, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Google and the Media Literacy Council. It was held at the Google Asia-Pacific office in Pasir Panjang.

In the end, a team of five SUTD students won for its idea of creating a platform where individuals collaborate to check on the authenticity of articles. Team leader Timothy Liu, 21, said: "By getting people to come together, we can consider the different perspectives in verifying if the information is real."

The hackathon, supported by The Straits Times, is part of the paper's continuing efforts to counter the spread of fake news and improve media literacy.

ST digital editor Ong Hwee Hwee, who was one of the judges at the event, said: "Some proposals were very well thought through and stood out in terms of their ease of use. The winning project, for instance, allows readers to verify news by simply installing a plug-in on their browsers.

"There were also some very creative ideas, such as 'inoculating' readers by flagging fake news even before it goes viral, and using Telegram chatbots to alert readers before they share news which might not be true."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline 'Hackathon sprouts ideas to tackle fake news'. Print Edition | Subscribe