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Google backs Irish academic's fake-news fight


Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Journalism researchers at the University of London, led by Galway-born Tom Felle, are to lead a major European push to combat 'fake news'.

The team has been awarded a new grant by the Google Digital News Initiative (DNI) to help journalists find and verify information in big data. The grant of £300,000 (€341,000) will be used to build a web-based app called DMINR.

The app combines machine-learning and artificial-intelligence technologies to help journalists fact-check, make sense of data and verify information. It also has applications for investigative journalism by sorting and finding connections in so-called 'big data' such as police, government and environmental data, and company records.

'Fake news' was a thorny issue in the US presidential race and remains a divisive subject there following Donald Trump's presidential election victory.

City's researchers will work with test users in up to 30 European newsrooms, including the Investigations Unit at RTÉ, data teams at the 'Telegraph' media group and the 'Guardian' in the UK, to build the web-based software tool.

The project aims to develop a "technological solution to a growing problem in journalism - how to conduct public-interest journalism in a news ecosystem, where resources are shrinking and, more starkly, newsrooms are closing down", according to project lead and senior lecturer in Digital Journalism at City, Tom Felle, a former journalist with the Irish Independent.

"As more and more information is stored and made available electronically - by governments, public bodies, supra-national organisations and others - sifting through mass data has become increasingly difficult," he said.

The project is expected to begin in September and take two years to complete.

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