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Empowering Citizens to Combat Disinformation: Insights from the C+J Data J Conference, Zurich

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

In an era of information overload and the rapid spread of fake news, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems to counter disinformation has become crucial. To address this coming trend, a conference session entitled "TITAN: An AI-based Citizen Coaching System to Counter Disinformation" was held last Friday at the Joint Computation + Journalism Computational Journalism Conference 2023 at ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

Main Auditorium at ETH
Main Auditorium at ETH

Massimo Magaldi from Engineering and Trisha Meyer, and Ana Fernandez Inguanzo from VUB introduced delegates to TITAN, a Horizon Europe research project focused on building a chatbot-based tool that empowers citizens with critical thinking skills to combat disinformation.


TITAN workshop shown on the Program schedule
TITAN on the Program

Opening: The Need for AI in Countering Disinformation:

Recent scandals surrounding propaganda and fake news have highlighted the importance of deploying AI systems to combat the spread of misinformation. The workshop shed light on the alarming consequences of disinformation and its potential to manipulate public opinion. From fact-checking websites to moderation systems on social networks, AI-driven solutions have become essential to identify and address disinformation effectively.


Introducing TITAN: An AI-Powered Citizen Coaching System

TITAN, the centrepiece of the workshop, is a pioneering research project that aims to develop an AI-based chatbot using a Socratic dialogue approach. By leveraging AI technology, TITAN seeks to assist citizens in enhancing their critical thinking skills and raising awareness about disinformation signals. The chatbot acts as a coach and prompts users with relevant questions that enable them to identify clickbait content, manipulated images, and logical fallacies commonly found in misleading news articles.


The Socratic methodology implemented within TITAN encourages users to question information, dig deeper, and develop their logical reasoning abilities. By empowering citizens with the tools to critically analyse news statements, the TITAN coach aims to equip individuals with the skills necessary to arrive at informed conclusions.


Microlessons: Expanding Knowledge on Fact-Checking and AI Ethics

TITAN goes beyond its role as a conversational tool by offering microlessons to users. These lessons cover topics such as fact-checking and AI ethics, further enhancing users' understanding of the complexities surrounding disinformation and its implications. By providing citizens with knowledge and resources, TITAN seeks to create an informed and discerning user base capable of navigating the ever-changing landscape of news and information.

Trisha Meyer holding her conference pass
Trisha Meyer, iMEC at conference

Limitations and Possibilities

During the workshop, discussions revolved around the limitations and possibilities of TITAN and similar AI-based coaching ecosystems. Ethical concerns, such as biased responses or the inadvertent collection of sensitive data, were thoroughly addressed. Experts emphasized the need for ongoing development and constant monitoring to mitigate potential risks associated with AI systems. Balancing accuracy, transparency, and user privacy emerged as key considerations in creating an effective and trustworthy coaching system.





Close: Conclusions

The workshop provided a platform to explore the profound impact of AI in countering disinformation and promoting critical thinking skills among citizens. As the fight against disinformation continues, projects like TITAN hold great potential in creating a more informed and resilient society. By leveraging AI responsibly, we can shape a future where citizens are equipped with the skills to navigate the complex landscape of information and make well-informed decisions. TITAN stands as a promising example of AI's potential to enhance critical thinking and combat the spread of disinformation in our increasingly digital world.

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