TITAN was in the heart of Brussels last week for the bustling European Week of Regions and Cities conference. The event, a pinnacle of regional development and cooperation, brought together politicians, civil servants, technologists and researchers from across the globe to discuss critical issues facing Europe, and the innovative technologies, solutions and policies that are aiming to solve the challenges . Among the multiple workshops and discussions, was our own workshop - "Separating Fact from Fiction: Creating a Smarter, More Truthful and Trusted Europe" - dedicated to solving the rising threat of disinformation.
Moderated by Susie Ruston McAleer from 21c, the workshops featured speakers included Ana Fernandez a PhD researcher from VUB specialising in data ethics and identity, renowned Professor Giannis Stamatellos from the Institute of Philosophy and Technology (IPT) and seasoned IT expert Antonis Ramfos from Athens Technology Center. Together they epitomised the interdisciplinary approach of TITAN required to tackle the challenge at hand - sociology, philosophy and technology.
As the workshop began, the moderator, Ruston McAleer, addressed the room, setting the stage for the topic discussion. Asking if delegates already knew about the concept of disinformation she explained that TITAN was established because "the need for trust in our institutions has never been more pronounced."
The first speaker Ana Fernandez dove into detail about the challenge. "In a world of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and viral falsehoods, the foundations of democracy are under siege, and this is not just a problem for journalists. It affects everyone. It affects governments, corporations, and, most importantly, the people who rely on these institutions for accurate information." She shared real-life examples of disinformation in action, explained that social media is an accelerator for disinformation, and that false information on Twitter (X) spreads 6 times faster than factual content. Fernandez continued with an overview of TITAN's unique approach to halting the spread of disinformation by using AI to raise peoples critical thinking skills.
Giannis Stamatellos took over to explain why we are using the Socratic approach to underpin our solution. In essence Socratic methodology is a powerful tool for nurturing critical thinking skills in individuals, enduring through the ages for several compelling reasons. First and foremost, it promotes active engagement and dialogue, encouraging learners to question assumptions, challenge prevailing beliefs, and seek deeper understanding. This method transcends passive learning, as it compels participants to think for themselves rather than simply memorize information. Secondly, the Socratic approach is highly adaptable and applicable across various domains of knowledge. "Philosophy is not about the stars, it's about our lives. This is why human-centric enquiry is at the heart of TITAN's approach to countering disinformation" said Stamatellos.
Next Antonis Ramfos explored how a generative AI-enabled chatbot could be a coach for truth and trust in Europe. Ramfos explained the concept of generative AI, emphasizing its potential to filter out false information and create a smarter, more informed populace. "We want to equip people with the tools to be critical thinkers, to question what they read, and to rely on verified sources," he stressed. "Disinformation campaigns are designed to inactivate peoples critical thinking skills. Our coach raises these skills by encouraging them to ask questions and empowers people to make free but informed choices in regards to deciding on the accuracy of content". He explained that by fostering an environment where individuals engage in respectful discourse and willingly admit when their beliefs are challenged, the resulting intellectual growth and curiosity helps build their resilience to online scams and fake news.
After the speakers finished presenting, the floor was opened up to delegates for questions and knowledge sharing. Queries around use case's, user engagement and ethics were put to the panel. Fernandez emphasised the importance of avoiding privacy infringements, Ramfos underlined the significance of transparency and accountability in AI systems, and Stamatellos reminded us that whilst Generative AI is an exciting tool, it's our commitment to truth that will ultimately save Europe's integrity.
As the session drew to a close, the speakers left attendees with a sense of hope and determination. "Remember," Ruston McAleer said whilst summing up, "the battle against disinformation is a collective one. We all share the same goal, so it's up to us - governments, media, corporations, and individuals - to stand together and hold ourselves accountable. we can only succeed in fighting against disinformation if we work together."
After the event, speakers and delegates mingled informally continuing conversations inspired by the question and
answer session. One member of the audience even claimed it was the best session she had attended all week; praise indeed. Dutch TV interviewed each of the speakers so they can use TITAN's approach to inspire and motivate others to drive change in a world where truth and trust is compromised. The journey toward a smarter, more truthful, and trusted Europe may have only just begun, but in that room at EU Regions Week, we all felt like a team with a cause worth fighting for!
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