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Team earns $5 million grant to develop tool to identify misinformation

A smartphone with social media icons lit up prominently.
Photo by dole777 on unsplash.

The National Science Foundation recently granted a research team $5 million to continue work on Course Correct, a tool designed to help journalists identify and combat misinformation online.

Porismita Borah, associate professor in Washington State University’s Murrow College of Communication, is a co-principal investigator on the effort lead by researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The latest grant follows a previous $750,000 NSF grant that helped the team develop an initial iteration of the tool.

Course Correct provides journalists with a dashboard to help identify trending misinformation on social media, correct false claims, and test their corrections’ effectiveness in real time. The next phase of the project will help roll the tool out to a wider audience.

Porismita Borah portrait
Porismita Borah

“I’m excited to move this work forward in Phase II, continuing to develop A/B-tested correction strategies against misinformation and evaluating the effectiveness of evidence-based corrections,” said Borah. “By testing different strategies at the same time, Course Correct can tell journalists the most effective ways to correct misinformation in the actual networks where the misinformation is doing the most damage.”

In Phase I, the team developed the misinformation detection system and conducted promising preliminary tests of a method to correct misinformation within the networks it was spreading, said Mike Wagner, a University of Wisconsin professor and principal investigator on the project.  

“Now, we will partner with journalists at the local, state, and national levels to see how well Course Correct works in real world settings,” Wagner said. “I hope we can play a small role in helping to increase the flow of accurate information about important issues and reduce the reach and power of misinformation.”

As a part of this grant, the team will be forming formal partnerships with regional, national, and global news organizations including Snopes and the International Fact Checking Network. The team plans to present Course Correct at the network’s Global Fact 10 Conference in the second year of this grant and invite signatories to join their team.

The team has a road map for Phase II of the project, with several key milestones, including completing the scalable misinformation detection system and the identification of best practices for misinformation correction. Then, they will train journalists on Course Correct and conduct randomized control trials to demonstrate the tool’s value. Next, they will introduce Course Correct to the 135 signatories of the International Fact Checking Network and incorporate their feedback. Finally, the team will bring additional news organization partners on board after presenting at the Global Fact Summit.

In addition to Borah and Wagner, the research team includes Wagner, Dhavan Shah, Sijia Yang and William Sethares, all from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Leticia Bode of Georgetown University; Srijan Kumar and Munmun De Choudhury of Georgia Tech; Emily Vraga of University of Minnesota, and Katie Harbath of the organization Anchor Change.


This article was adapted from a University of Wisconsin, Madison press release.

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