Misinformation and Ethical Concern

With the reliance on social media as a source of news and for nearly all information we consume, it has become very easy for misinformation to spread. In fact, misinformation spreads just as easily as correct information and telling the difference between the two is no longer straightforward. The source-checking and fact-checking duties have become the job of the reader rather than the writer, whether the information has already been fact-checked or not, and "fake news" has become the new normal. The purpose of this lab is to demonstrate how misinformation can spread computationally and how information becomes misinformation.

This project utilizes The MisInfoBot, which is an R script that reads in a New York Times Article and randomly changes a certain amount of words based on the user's input. The script plays a game of telephone with itself through 'iteration'. With each 'iteration', The MisInfoBot replicates a news media outlet passing information to the next news media outlet, like CNN or Fox News coming out with a news story that is then edited and posted on an Instagram account.

If the CNN or Fox News story contains incorrect information, then the Instagram account will likely publish that incorrect information along with the correct information without fact-checking it. How are they to know the story is incorrect? After all, the Instagram account is not legally obligated to make sure they're publishing pinpoint accurate news, they're just looking for likes and clicks. This cycle can continue until the message of the story has been completely distorted, and the misinformation can completely permeate the news sphere, hence, the game of telephone.

Allegheny's Computer Science Department

Project Leaders:
Dr. Oliver Bonham-Carter, obonhamcarter@allegheny.edu
Dr. Janyl Jumadinova, jjumadinova@allegheny.edu
Dr. Gregory Kapfhammer, gkapfham@allegheny.edu