The essence of the conference

On 5 July 2022, Identrics organised the Technologies Against Disinformation conference together with Ontotext and GATE Institute. The event’s goal was to highlight the importance of technologies in the fight against the massive spread of online disinformation. The conference was divided into two panels – technological and practical, led by two moderators. The moderator of the first session was Milena Dobreva, an Associate Professor at GATE Institute. The moderator of the second one was Mirolyuba Benatova, a famous Bulgarian investigative journalist, reporter, and TV host.

The main problems behind the spread of disinformation

Bozhidar Bozhanov, Minister of e-Government (in resignation),opened the conference by giving the audience background information about the scale of disinformation spread and its consequences. He briefly went through the four main problems:

  • Lack of transparency; 
  • Inadequate moderation;
  •  “Troll factories”; 
  • The algorithm for suggesting content. 

You might wonder what those so-called “troll factories” are. These are institutionalised groups of internet trolls that try to interfere in political opinions and create chaos within a community. The “troll factories” contribute to spreading fake information and are an obstacle to the easy flow of the truth. “The solution for this problem should be technological, or at least come partly from technologies,” says Bozhanov regarding the possible way out of the situation.

Professionals sharing useful information

The technological panel included speakers from Identrics, Ontotext, Agence France-Presse, and The speakers introduced various solutions for handling fake news, hate speech, and trolls. Each of them went through different points regarding disinformation, such as video and image forgery, the ongoing algorithm, and the role of AI. 

Vasil Shivachev, COO at Identrics, gave an insightful presentation on how people can benefit from the advanced technology in today’s world, and how Identrics can offer a solution for the occurring problem of disinformation. “Technology is here to help people work better, not to substitute them,” said Vasil regarding people’s concerns about machines and AI. He further discussed the severity of the problem of information being taken out of context, as it can be used as a manipulative tool.

Vasil Shivachev, Identrics, explaining about Topify - Identrics' solution that can assist in the fight with disinformation

Identrics’ solution

In relation to the recent massive attacks from “troll factories” towards Bulgaria, Vasil also mentioned a product Identrics has been working on for over a year – Topify (yet to be released).  It is an online news quantifier tool that clusters content and gives a big-picture overview of emerging topic trends, and a deep-dive into the metrics that drive them. 

“Everyone has access to a vast amount of information. But this information has to be turned into knowledge, and it has to reach the right people at the right time,” Identrics’ COO said. 

Referring to Minster Bozhanov’s opening speech, Vasil then moved onto the topic of ethical AI. He presented the three main components of ethical AI – regulations, model explainability, and HITL (human in the loop). 

“Regulations should be seen as a tool of assistance rather than a tool of censorship. Model explainability is another important step for us. Each customer should know why a specific product or service has been suggested to them. And lastly, HITL, meaning ‘human in the loop.’ We rely on people; therefore, in everything we do, people are an integral part.”

“The essence of what we, at Identrics, do is to make sense of the content we process.”

Vasil Shivachev, COO Identrics

More about the conference

The panelists from the practical session shared more about the disinformation deluge, explained what fact-checking is, gave insights on what machines can and cannot do, and outlined how people can benefit from them.

The conference united tech people and data scientists, intending to raise awareness about fake information circulation in the media. The professionals shared experience, thoughtful opinions, and interesting solutions to the problem.

If you are interested in the topic, you can join the conference’s Slack channel to watch a recording of the session and engage in further discussions.