Researchers working on social media 'lie detector'

Updated 29 April 2014
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Researchers working on social media 'lie detector'

LONDON: University researchers are working on a system that could quash rumors spreading on social media by identifying whether information is accurate.
Five European universities, led by Sheffield in northern England, are cooperating on a system that could automatically identify whether a rumor originates from a reliable source and can be verified.
The researchers said Tuesday they hope the system will allow governments, emergency services, media and the private sector to respond more effectively to claims emerging and spreading on social media before they get out of hand.
The three-year, European Union-funded project, called PHEME, is an attempt to filter out the nuggets of factual information from the avalanche of ill-informed comment on Twitter and Facebook.
"Social networks are rife with lies and deception," the project leaders said in a statement. Such messages can have far-reaching consequences, but there is so much of it that it is impossible to analyse it in real time.
Claims during the 2011 riots in London that the London Eye observation wheel was on fire or that all the animals were let out of London Zoo were given as examples of false rumors that spread rapidly via the Internet.
The research is being led by Dr Kalina Bontcheva of Sheffield University's Faculty of Engineering.
"The problem is that it all happens so fast and we can't quickly sort truth from lies," she said.
"This makes it difficult to respond to rumors, for example, for the emergency services to quash a lie in order to keep a situation calm. Our system aims to help with that, by tracking and verifying information in real time."
The project is trying to identify four types of information -- speculation, controversy, misinformation, and disinformation -- and model their spread on social networks.
It will try to use three factors to establish veracity: the information itself (lexical, syntactic and semantic); cross-referencing with trustworthy data sources; and the information's diffusion.
The results can be displayed to the user on screen.
"We can already handle many of the challenges involved, such as the sheer volume of information in social networks, the speed at which it appears and the variety of forms, from tweets, to videos, pictures and blog posts," said Bontcheva.
"But it's currently not possible to automatically analyse, in real time, whether a piece of information is true or false and this is what we've now set out to achieve."
The Times newspaper said the EU would meet most of the predicted 4.3 million euros costs of the project and a final version is hoped for within 18 months.
The project is a collaboration between five universities -- Sheffield, King's College London, Warwick in England, Saarland in Germany and MODUL University Vienna -- and four companies - ATOS in Spain, iHub in Kenya, Ontotext in Bulgaria and swissinfo.ch.
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

Updated 20 March 2019
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

  • 5G will be used in 30% of big cities in Saudi Arabia by 2020
  • 90% of KSA has 4G technology coverage, including remote centers and villages

RIYADH: Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the main drivers of development in today’s world, a Riyadh forum on “Digital Transformation for an Ambitious Country” has been told.

In his opening speech to the annual Communications and Information Technology Indicators Forum, Abdul Aziz Al-Ruwais, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said the ICT sector stimulated productivity, enhanced competitiveness and encouraged innovation.

On Wednesday, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, joined regional and global leaders in the ICT sector, telecom executives and government officials at the forum.

Al-Ruwais said that ICT has been used to “develop strategies and regulatory policies that can guarantee the availability of infrastructure, basic apparatus and services in all regions of the Kingdom.”

“In order to facilitate the mission of researchers, experts and those interested in telecommunication services indicators, the Communications and Information Technology Commission established an electronic platform that allows the user to have access to indicators and statistics related to the sector. This platform enables the user to view the indicators in the form of tables and detailed graphs,” he said.

Al-Ruwais said the commission has achieved 90 percent coverage of 4G technologies in the Kingdom, including remote centers and villages.

He said the authority has issued temporary licenses for fifth-generation networks, equipping 153 sites with 5G in nine cities. So far, 680 trials were conducted for 5G.

He said that ICT services achieved high indicators during the 2017 Hajj season, with local and international calls totaling 439 million through 16,000 base stations.

Mufarreh Nahari, director of Market Studies at CITC, said: “It is expected that by 2020 the experimental uses of 5G will be fully completed and they will be ready to launch the official 5G sim by then. By the end of 2020 we expect that 5G will be used in 30 percent of the big cities in Saudi Arabia.”

The past three years have seen an increase in internet usage. In 2018, two-thirds of Internet users in the Kingdom used the internet for more than four hours a day, said Nahari.

Ammar Al-Ansari, department head of Country Digital Acceleration at Cisco, said: “The agreements signed by the crown prince during his overseas visits led to the introduction of a number of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, including virtual schools and smart classrooms.” 

Seven schools in Saudi have a live stream for teachers to connect with their students. They may be 250 km to 300 km apart, but an active learning session takes place between students and educators.

Al-Ansari displayed a video from a teacher in Jeddah giving lessons to students in the northern region via a smart board. AI was used to monitor and analyze students’ attention spans. 

The analysis will help educators update traditional teaching methods.