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Crowdsourcing reality: Using technology to combat the spread of misinformation


Project Description

Misinformation in the form of fake news has become a characteristic of the 21st century, driven by technologies such as social media platforms that enable information to spread quickly. The propagation of this misinformation often relies upon individuals sharing the fake news items to their contacts, typically through a ‘Share via’ button on websites or other online platforms. Algorithmic systems on social media platforms use these behaviours to determine what information that individual will be presented with in the future. This can have several consequences on individual wellbeing. These include the creation of echo chambers, through which the beliefs of individuals can become extreme due to the continual reinforcement they receive, and filter bubbles, through which individuals are shielded from information that would challenge their beliefs. This represents a fundamental departure from how we have previously interacted with our social world, in which individuals would more regularly be exposed to alternative information and, through processes such as normative influence and informational influence, come to a more comprehensive understanding of our world. It has been alleged that this style of online behaviour has contributed towards serious offline problems, such as the increase in measles outbreaks following the spread of misinformation regarding vaccinations. There are various organisations and website that actively seek to challenge misinformation, but they are challenged by the sheer volume of fake news stories and the speed with which they spread.

The same technology that contributes to the spread of information has the potential to be used to curb it. At the moment the flow of information is primarily in one direction – with the click of a button an individual can share an article online, but there is often no straightforward way for them to retract that action. Similarly, there are multiple online systems in which individuals can share a review or rating of a product, but few ways for them to provide their rating or degree of confidence in an online story.

This PhD will investigate the feasibility and possible design ideas around crowdsourcing the detection of fake news and the spread of their correction. It will involve the development and testing of an app that would allow users to recall and challenge online information that they determine to be misinformation. Several hypotheses around resisting peer pressure, confrontation and empowered refusal will be tested. In doing so several social psychological processes would be utilised and exploited, including minority influence and self-serving bias. Consensus could be built through the sharing of these ratings, which would be designed in a way to prevent echo chambers and filter bubbles. As such the task of identifying and challenge misinformation becomes crowd-sourced and transparent. A consequence of this may be that individuals become empowered to cope with exposure to fake news, which in turn have a positive impact on their wellbeing. The results of this PhD will provide an evidence base for how best to inhibit the spread of fake news.

How to apply:

Applications are made via our website using the Apply Online button below. If you have an enquiry about this project please contact us via the Email NOW button below, however your application will only be processed once you have submitted an application form as opposed to emailing your CV to us.

Candidates for funded PhD studentship must demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years.

The PhD Studentships are open to UK, EU and international students. Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years and must demonstrate:

• A 1st class honours degree and/or a relevant Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent. If English is not your first language you’ll need IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component).

Funding Notes

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £15,000 per year to contribute towards living expenses during the course of your research, as well as a fee waiver for 36 months.

Funded Studentships are open to both UK/EU and International students unless otherwise specified.

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