UW-Madison researchers launch project to combat online misinformation

Vilas Hall on the UW-Madison campus

MADISON, Wis. — A group of researchers with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is launching a new project to combat online misinformation.

The project, titled “How Large-Scale Identification and Intervention Can Empower Professional Fact-Checkers to Improve Democracy and Public Health,” is funded by a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator.

UW-Madison professor Mike Wagner is leading the project.

“This project will help determine what corrections of misinformation are effective and get that information to professional fact-checkers, who can work in real-time to correct misinformation circulating on social media,” Wagner said. “This is a real convergence of different disciplines and methods that allows us to find solutions to the problem and share good evidence with fact-checkers and the public.”

Researchers plan to buy ads on Facebook and Twitter and use each platform’s messaging testing features to determine which methods for correcting and debunking misinformation work best.

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UW-Madison SJMC Assistant Professor Sijia Yang, one of the project’s co-principal investigators, said researchers plan to share those findings with fact-checkers and journalists to better serve their efforts.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor William Sethares and SJMC Professor and Mass Communication Research Center Director Dhavan Shah will collaborate with three other co-PIs from other universities: Georgia Tech Associate Professor Munmun De Choudhury and Assistant Professor Srijan Kumar and Washington State University Associate Professor Porismita Borah, who is also a UW-Madison SJMC alum.