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Battling disinformation with technology

A team composed of graduates from three Philippine universities bagged first place in a recently concluded hackathon.

According to recent report, the three-city event challenged programmers and developers to create systems that will help institutions battle disinformation.

The winning tech

The team, comprised of graduates from the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), the De La Salle University (DLSU) and the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, topped the competition when they created a network graph to track purveyors of disinformation.

Their project is also capable of mapping out the relationships of fake news web sites with each other.

By mapping out the Web of fake news sites, which have figurative and literal links to one another, these sources can be separated from legitimate outlets and publications.

Separating them will undoubtedly lift the quality of public discourse.

Some of the solutions produced include:

  1. An online database of fake news sites
  2. An anti-fake news content portal
  3. An app that identifies if an applicant’s credentials are true
  4. A mapping tool that maps traffic sources of a social sentiment in an online platform

The team that won second place created a Web browser extension that bridged the gap between users and fact-checking organisations.

The third place winner, meanwhile, created an app that gives bloggers a badge that detects fake news.

Each team were given five minutes to pitch their creation, and had three minutes to answer the judges’ questions.

Aside from PHP 100,000 (US$ 1,913.95), additional prizes for the winners are:

  1. Opportunity to pitch their programs to potential investors
  2. Visit the country offices of some of the region’s biggest companies
  3. Get mentorship from local entrepreneurs and professionals
  4. Consultancy from a marketing and events management company

About the hackathon

Jakarta, Indonesia, was the inaugural stop of the event. The event then moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for its second outing last July. Manila, Philippines was the last leg of the event.

Participants were encouraged to develop a multitude of possible solutions to fight fake news.

The hackathon was made possible through the generous grant awarded by the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Seeds for the Future program of the US Government, in cooperation with a non-profit organisation.

Launched in 2013, YSEALI is the signature program of the US to strengthen youth leadership in the region.

The lead organiser of the event explained that they aim to engage the public, especially the youth, through technology-driven media literacy events to combat fake news.

They are addressing the Asian struggle against fake news and disinformation through technology.

Fake news is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today. It will take the ingenuity of the youth, combined with the power of technology, to put an end to this trend.

The event serves as forum to realise their solutions and mobilise them into action.

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