Kate Starbird, Assistant Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE), is the Principal Investigator (PI) for a two-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Award for the project “Detecting Misinformation Flows in Social Media Spaces During Crisis Events.” Starbird's research aims both to understand how rumors are spread on social media and to develop an algorithm that can automatically detect a rumor in real time. Co-PI’s for the award are from the University of Washington’s Information School: Assistant Professor Emma Spiro and Professor Robert Mason.
More than ever before, individuals are turning to social media sites in the wake of disaster events. Using online networks, people can search for reports and share eyewitness accounts within seconds—creating a wealth of crowdsourced information that can help affected communities and emergency responders. However, once rumors are disseminated within those networks, relief efforts can be greatly impeded. This project aims to identify misinformation and how it spreads by using the collective intelligence of social media users who challenge and correct questionable information, and to develop an algorithm that can identify and classify rumors. Preliminary work has focused on tweets sent during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings; this award will expand the scope to include new events and examine both rumors that turn out to be true and false rumors, and how they start.
For more information on the award, see the National Science Foundation webpage.