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Meet Team TITAN: Tim Van Lier from VRT

This post is part of a series of articles introducing members of the TITAN Consortium and their motivations for working on disinformation and AI research and innovation.

Photo of Tim Van Lier and a quote from the article

Who are you, where do you work, and what is your role on the TITAN project?

I’m Tim Van Lier and I've worked now 14 years for VRT, the Flemish Public Broadcaster. I’m part of the Innovation department and I’m mainly involved in projects about education or new interactive formats. I’ve a background in user research, product design and product ownership. My purpose is to come up with new ideas that have an impact on society. Education is always a good place to start innovation. My role in TITAN is WP5 lead. In this work package we will test the new technologies developed in TITAN in a real-life setting. We will organize 3 pilot studies.

Have you experienced disinformation yourself?

I’ve definitely encountered information that wasn’t trustworthy. For example I’ve received

several phishing mails and messages and it seems that it only increases. Probably I also have read misinformation, although I will not have known whether this was wrong or not. To be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of fake news, because a couple years ago I stopped using social networks, which is a main source of fake news. In my professional context I definitely have encountered disinformation, during research etc. I also have read fact checks, created by our news department.

What trends do you see regarding disinformation and the move to mitigate/counter its

influence? (e.g., tools / services / markets / demographics)

AI will definitely help in debunking disinformation; New models will give us more transparency, in the sources used, the claims, the validity of images, etc... These AI tools and services will be part of the new toolbox of journalists. But factchecking will not be enough to fight disinformation, we need a cultural change; Generative AI will cause a flood of fake news articles, but I expect a social counter movement, for example by using the social networks less, be more critical, … and organisations hopefully will follow by changing algorithms, business models,… If we want to have real change, we need to change the economics.

Also on legislation there is a lot happening, for example in Europe and US. In the end, I think we need to make citizens more resilient against disinformation, by educating them. I expect more programs and tool to stimulate media and news literacy. Lifelong learning is very important, but we need to find the right techniques to motivate learners. Developments in new interactive formats, storytelling and personal learning experiences can only help to fight the battle against disinformation and losing trust in media

What do you think is unique about TITANs approach to countering disinformation? 

TITAN combines new technologies (LLM, AI Chatbot), with new learning techniques (storytelling, Socratic method,…); It focuses on pre-bunking, on critical thinking instead of only factchecking. It wants to make the citizen more resilient and for that you need to start at the source!

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