23-05-2017

TrusttheSource: a new tool for journalists to prevent fake news

With fake news and inaccurate reporting becoming an ever increasing problem, TrusttheSource provides journalists with an easy tool to verify the reliability of a source on Twitter. Founded by Hanze student Margot Verleg in 2016, the startup is currently looking for journalists to test the app this summer, before the release later this year.

There’s an ever increasing pressure for news media, especially online, to be first and get the scoop when news breaks. However, when using a Twitter source, it can take journalists up to 12 hours to not only find the original tweet, but also to verify if the source is actually a reliable one. And because of the deadline pressure, mistakes can happen, resulting in fake news with sometimes far reaching consequences.

LONDON EYE BURNING AND RUMORS OF ASSAD’S DEATH

One of those mistakes sparked the idea behind TrusttheSource. “I was doing an internship at local newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden in 2011, and suddenly Twitter exploded with rumors that the London Eye was on fire”, Margot explains. “Even reputable media like the BBC started reporting about it, but it turned out to be a photoshopped image. When news like that spreads, it spreads fast, and it can take journalists a lot of unnecessary time to trace it back to the original source. I decided to sit down with a few programmer friends and that’s basically how TrusttheSource was born.”

Margot points out another case with a dubious original source, this one leading to a sudden spike in global oil prices: “A Twitter profile, claiming to be the Russian Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev, posted a tweet saying Syrian President Assad was either injured or killed. The profile turned out to be fake, but nonetheless, the fake news lead to a sudden increase in oil prices, because the financial world didn’t wait for the news to be verified.”

FINDING THE SOURCE AND CHECKING IF IT’S CREDIBLE

TrusttheSource uses an algorithm to trace a tweet to its first known source, also giving an overview of retweets from oldest to newest. “The algorithm uses 45 different variables to check just how reliable the source is”, Margot says. “Like the location of the source and author and if it corresponds with the location mentioned in the tweet, how old the account is and how many followers it has for example.

“Based on all these factors, the tool will calculate a reliability score”, Margot continues. “This saves journalists a great deal of time, because all they have to do, is enter the a single tweet to find its source.”

TESTING THIS SUMMER

After one and a half years of researching and early developments, TrusttheSource was officially founded in January 2016 and received the HBO Take-Off grant later that year, to develop a working prototype. In March 2017, the startup was a finalist for the Global Student Entrepreneur Award and currently has 5 people working in the team.

This summer, journalists can test TrusttheSource and there are still a few spots open. “The Twitter version is almost finished and later this year, we’ll start developing for more social platforms”, Margot says. “In the meantime, we’re also still looking for extra funding.”

Interested? Check out: http://www.trustthesource.nl

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