New research collaboration to enrich public debate around “fake news”

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PARIS, FRANCE. Today sees the launch of a new research collaboration, A Field Guide to Fake News at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, a gathering of thousands of journalists from across Europe and around the world.

The guide aims to enrich and stimulate public debate and responses to “fake news” online – by demonstrating innovative methods and approaches for tracing the production, circulation and reception of misinformation across the web and digital platforms. The first part is freely available online at: fakenews.publicdatalab.org

The guide is the first project of the Public Data Lab, a new interdisciplinary network to facilitate research, public engagement and debate around the future of the data society – which includes Mathieu Jacomy and Tommaso Venturini of the médialab of Sciences Po Paris.

It has been undertaken in collaboration with First Draft (firstdraftnews.com), a non-profit initiative dedicated to improving skills and standards in the reporting and sharing of information that emerges online.

Aimed at journalists, researchers, students, civil society groups and public institutions, A Field Guide to Fake News takes a radically empirical approach to mapping “fake news”. It also suggests ways to turn the hype around fake news into an occasion to encourage the public exploration of digital media landscapes, platforms and collective life online.

The first portion of the field guide contains three methodological recipes for (1) mapping fake news hotspots on Facebook; (2) tracing the circulation of fake news on the web; and (3) mapping the political economy of fake news using tracker signatures. Further recipes will look at memes, bots, trolls and fact-checking initiatives.

A number of journalists and media organisations are already testing, using and exploring the approaches outlined in the guide. Earlier this week, BuzzFeed News drew on several of the methods and datasets in the guide in order to investigate the advertising trackers used on fake news websites.

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