New website advances effort to reduce harmful impact of news hoaxes in society
The Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University has launched a powerful new tool in the fight against fake news.
The tool, called Hoaxy, visualizes how claims in the news — and fact checks of those claims — spread online through social networks. The tool is built upon earlier work at IU led by Filippo Menczer, a professor and director of the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research in the IU School of Informatics and Computing.
“In the past year, the influence of fake news in the U.S. has grown from a niche concern to a phenomenon with the power to sway public opinion,” Menczer said. “We’ve now even seen examples of fake news inspiring real-life danger, such as the gunman who fired shots in a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor in response to false claims of child trafficking.”
Previous tools from the observatory at IU include BotOrNot, a system to assess whether the intelligence behind a Twitter account is more likely a person or a computer, and a suite of online tools that allows anyone to analyze the spread of hashtags across social networks.
In response to the growth of fake news, several major web services are making changes to curtail the spread of false information on their platforms. Google and Facebook recently banned the use of their advertisement services on websites that post fake news, for example. Facebook also rolled out a system last week through which users can flag stories they suspect are false, which are then referred to third-party fact-checkers.
Over the past several months, Menczer and colleagues were frequently cited as experts on how fake news and misinformation spread in outlets such as PBS Newshour, Scientific American, The Atlantic, Reuters, Australian Public Media, NPR and BuzzFeed.
Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, a research scientist at the IU Network Science Institute, coordinated the Hoaxy project with Menczer. Ciampaglia said a user can now enter a claim into the service’s website and see results that show both incidents of the claim in the media and attempts to fact-check it by independent organizations such as snopes.com, politifact.com and factcheck.org. These results can then be selected to generate a visualization of how the articles are shared across social media.
The site’s search results display headlines that appeared on sites known to publish inaccurate, unverified or satirical claims based upon lists compiled and published by reputable news and fact-checking organizations.
A search of the terms “cancer” and “cannabis,” for example, turns up multiple claims that cannabis has been found to cure cancer, a statement whose origins have been roundly debunked by the reputable fact-checking website snopes.com. A search of social shares of articles that make the claim, however, shows a clear rise in people sharing the story, with under 10 claims in July rising to hundreds by December.
Specifically, Ciampaglia said, Hoaxy’s visualizations illustrate both temporal trends and diffusion networks as they relate to online claims and fact-checks. Temporal trends plot the cumulative number of Twitter shares over time. Diffusion networks show how claims spread from person to person. Twitter is currently the only social network tracked by Hoaxy, and only publicly posted tweets appear in the visualizations.
“Importantly, we do not decide what is true or false,” Menczer said. “Not all claims you can visualize on Hoaxy are false, nor are we saying that the fact-checkers are 100 percent correct all of the time. Hoaxy is a tool to observe how unverified stories and the fact-checking of those stories spread on public social media. It’s up to users to evaluate the evidence about a claim and its rebuttal.”
Menczer’s interest in fake news began over seven years ago. In an experiment reported in a paper titled “Social Spam Detection,” he created a website of fake celebrity news clearly marked as false and promoted the articles on social bookmarking websites, which were popular at the time. After a month, Menczer was shocked to receive a check based on ad revenue from the site.
“That early experiment demonstrated the power of the internet to monetize false information,” he said. “I didn’t expect at the time that the problem would reach the level of national debate.”
In the years since the experiment, however, the volume and influence of fake news have expanded across the web from sources as disparate as satirical websites, ideologically motived organizations and Macedonian teenagers working to rake in advertising dollars.
“If we want to stop the growing influence of fake news in our society, first we need to understand the mechanisms behind how it spreads,” Menczer said. “Tools like Hoaxy are an important step in the process.”
First evidence for new molecular structure could open doors to chemical solutions for environmental problems
Indiana University researchers have reported the first definitive evidence for a new molecular structure with potential applications to the safe storage of nuclear waste and reduction of chemicals that contaminate water and trigger large fish kills.
The study, which was published online Oct. 6 in the German scientific journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, provides experimental proof for the existence of a chemical bond between two negatively charged molecules of bisulfate, or HSO4.
The existence of this structure — a “supramolecule” with two negatively charged ions — was once regarded as impossible since it appears to defy a nearly 250-year-old chemical law that has recently come under new scrutiny.
“An anion-anion dimerization of bisulfate goes against simple expectations of Coulomb’s law,” said IU professor Amar Flood, who is the senior author on the study. “But the structural evidence we present in this paper shows two hydroxy anions can in fact be chemically bonded. We believe the long-range repulsions between these anions are offset by short-range attractions.”
Flood is a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry. The first author on the study is Elisabeth Fatila, a postdoctoral researcher in Flood’s lab.
In molecular chemistry, two monomer molecules connected by a strong covalent bond are called a “dimer.” (A polymer is a chain of many monomers.) In supramolecular chemistry, the dimers are connected by many weak non-covalent bonds. A negatively charged particle is an anion.
A key part of Coulomb’s law is the idea that two molecules with the same charge create a repellent force that prevents chemical bonding — like two magnets with the same end put into close contact. But recently, experts have begun to argue that negatively charged molecules with hydrogen atoms, such as a bisulfate — composed of hydrogen, sulfur and oxygen – can also form viable chemical bonds.
“Although supramolecular chemistry started out as an effort to create new molecular hosts that hold on to complementary molecular guests through non-covalent bonds, the field has recently branched out to explore non-covalent interactions between the guests in order to create new ‘chemical species,'” Fatila said. The negatively charged bisulfate dimer in the IU study employs a self-complementary, anti-electrostatic hydrogen bond.
The molecule’s existence is made possible through encapsulation inside a pair of cyanostar macrocycles, a molecule previously developed by Flood’s lab at IU. Fatila and colleagues were trying to bind a single bisulfate molecule inside the cyanostar; the presence of two negatively charged bisulfate ions was a surprise.
“This paper is inspirational because it may launch a new approach to supramolecular ion recognition,” said Jonathan Sessler, a professor of chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the study. “I expect this will be the start of something new and important in the field.”
The ability to produce a negatively charged bisulfate dimer might also advance the search for chemical solutions to several environmental challenges. Due to their ion-extraction properties, the molecules could potentially be used to remove sulfate ions from the process used to transform nuclear waste into storable solids — a method called vitrification, which is harmed by these ions — as well as to extract harmful phosphate ions from the environment.
“The eutrophication of lakes is just one example of the serious threat to the environment caused by the runoff of phosphates from fertilizers,” Flood said, referring to uncontrolled plant growth that results from excess phosphate nutrients running into lakes and ocean. When these chemicals get into the water supply as runoff from fertilizer — produced by dairy farms and used to increase crop yields — they can trigger massive algae blooms that poison water supplies and kill fish in large numbers.
In August, Flood was also named the principal investigator on a new, separate grant from the National Science Foundation to specifically focus on removing these substances from the environment. The three-year, $600,000 award is a collaboration with Heather Allen, a professor at The Ohio State University, which is near a part of the country that has recently experienced large algae blooms due to agricultural runoff into Lake Erie.
Indiana University (IU) is a multi-campus public university system in the state of Indiana, United States.
Indiana University has a combined student body of more than 110,000 students, including approximately 43,000 students enrolled at the Indiana University Bloomington campus and approximately 31,000 students enrolled at the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus.
According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), the value of the endowment of the Indiana University and affiliated foundations is over $1.57 billion.
The Latest Updated Research News:
Indiana University research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Machine learning as good as, or better than, human reviewers in cancer surveillance – April 22, 2016
- Single, minor gene alteration method could confer new disease resistance traits to crops – February 12, 2016
- A new ‘nano-reactor’ for the efficient production of hydrogen biofuel – January 6, 2016
- Researchers see promising results in treating age-related decline in muscle mass and power – January 1, 2016
- Scientists create computational algorithm for fact-checking – June 19, 2015
- Internet as new frontier in collecting data on the mind – May 3, 2015
- Cheaper and Cleaner Bioethanol from Earth’s Most Abundant Gas: Nitrogen – February 5, 2015
- New technique detects microscopic diabetes-related eye damage – April 18, 2014
- Researchers propose alternative way to allocate science funding
- Robotic therapy aids kids’ handwriting skills
- Novel Technology Seen as New, More Accurate Way to Diagnose and Treat Autism
- ‘Self-cleaning’ pollution-control technology could do more harm than good
- It’s Electric: Biologists Seek to Crack Cell’s Bioelectric Code
- New therapy effective and safe for treating obesity in mice
- New Class of Power Inverter Could Mean Cheaper, Faster Hybrid Vehicles
- Could a NOSH-Aspirin-a-Day Keep Cancer Away?
- Scientists Present Prostate Cancer Breakthrough at International Oncology Conference
- Can Twitter predict the future?
- Technology On Way To Forecasting Humanity’s Needs
- As computer graphics and robots get more human, they often seem more surreal
- Oil field brine proposed to treat Hungary’s red sludge spill
- Climate Change May Mean Slower Winds