Restoring Faith in our Social Media Landscape

Deceptive social media posts and fake news have become news themselves. Beyond misguiding social media users, social media deception can have devastating consequences when inaccurate information is spread about disaster response or health care.

Two Purdue researchers are working to restore public trust in social media as part of Eunomia, a European Union-funded global consortium of scholars and industry visionaries creating an open-source social media credibility tool.

Sorin Adam Matei, a professor of communication and associate dean of research in the College of Liberal Arts, and David Ebert, the Silicon Valley Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of Purdue’s Integrative Data Science Initiative, are collaborating with European colleagues to create a tool to evaluate and vote on the trustworthiness of social media posts. Matei is the project’s computational social science officer. Ebert is on the advisory board.

The tool can be used to answer three fundamental questions about any piece of social media content: Who created the social media content? How trustworthy is the creator? And, was the content changed from its initial creation to the point where it was visualized by the end-user?

Eunomia, named for the Greek goddess of lawful conduct and order, relies on artificial intelligence, decentralized media platforms and analytic tools to create a “trust companion” for apps and platforms that disseminate social media content.

To achieve this, Eunomia uses the latest blockchain technologies which, similar to peer-to-peer networks, store and process all information relying on the users’ own computers while preserving their anonymity.

“Instead of asking one company or organization to check the data, we all do it while we read it. Eunomia has a great responsibility,” Matei says. “The European Union invested the equivalent of a small startup in our tool, approximately $3 million, so that we can produce one of the first methods to help social media users evaluate the quality and credibility of social media content. If successful, this could be a game-changer.”