Fake News Awareness App
Dr Usha M Rodrigues – Senior Lecturer, Communication (Journalism)
Dr Lienors Torre –Lecturer, Screen and Design
Dr Sophie Mckenzie – Lecturer, IT
Mr Jack Parry – Lecturer, Screen and Design.
Mr Fiodor Krasniy – IT
This pilot project aimed to utilize an interdisciplinary collaboration to educate new media technology USERs in recognising ‘fake news’ and misinformation distributed on social media platforms. A team drawn from Media Studies, Animation and Information Technology along with two research assistants have worked on an education module that aims to inculcate social media users to recognise fake news through the awareness of various technologies and techniques used to produce news-like posts.
In an innovative cross-disciplinary process, the module aims to solve a real-world issue of the consumption and sharing of fake news and misinformation on social media platforms.
Media literacy skills were used to deconstruct the nature of a false or misleading post that could be circulated on a social media platform such as Facebook or WhatsApp. Trust was recognised as a central theme in the consumption of news-like posts and paralleled with the structure of trust and garnering of information within the family unit. It was observed that the social sector most vulnerable to news-like posts were the older sector of Indian society for whom technology remained threatening and challenging. This sector relies on their younger family members to inform and guide them in matters of technology. Consequently it was decided that an appropriate perspective for inculcation was through the delivery of this information by senior school teenagers. Cultural representations were also considered in the choice to represent the children as cartoon characters.
Mood boards were developed and the design of appropriate characters were resolved who would function as the mouth piece of the educational module, a girl and a boy. The module itself was designed with parameters similar to that of social media consumption: lightweight, fast, modular and scalable.
An innovative traditional animation technique driven by webcam motion capture was created to drive a specially rigged cartoon character facilitating the fast and easy creation of a large body of animation as necessary.
The resultant 2D animation was encoded using WEBM encoding allowing for large volumes of animation to be used and streamed from a webserver.
The setting for the characters was created as a low-poly 3D environment with a code-driven camera thus allowing for a wide variety of backgrounds and projection platforms for the supporting media.
The pilot module focused the use of image manipulation software (such as Photoshop) to doctor images and videos disseminated on the social media platform WhatsApp. The module has highlighted the importance of cross-referencing consumed images and explaining how images and videos can be modified using readily accessible image and video processing software and what to be aware of when scrutinizing such footage.
The module is supported by a mobile friendly true or false game to engage the user experience and reinforce learning.
The project has prompted two further grant applications. In each, the ideas have been developed further.
We aim to publish a research paper based on this experiment.
A simple prototype has been created to test this idea and can be downloaded using the following link.
A video demonstration of the prototype can be viewed using the following link.