Screening and accuracy nudging to combat misinformation on COVID-19: AI-based prototype development and pilot intervention

The Team

The Proposal

This project aims to develop an AI-based prototype tool for detecting online misinformation on COVID-19. The developed tool will be pilot tested with a small group of Singaporeans who are vulnerable to misinformation in order to inform and educate them about the veracity of online heath information about COVID-19. The expected outcomes of the pilot intervention will be less exposure to misinformation, an improved truth discernment and knowledge on COVID-19 prevention and treatment as well as less sharing of misinformation with others. Specifically, we propose the following research questions:

  • RQ1: What are the effects of the AI-based prototype tool on individuals’ truth discernment, knowledge on, exposure to and sharing of misinformation on COVID-19?
  • RQ2: For whom will the AI-based prototype tool be most useful in defusing misinformation?

Interdisciplinary Nature of Proposal

This project involves an interdisciplinary research team comprised of experts in health communication (PI), artificial intelligence (PI), fake news/misinformation (CO-I) and interactive technologies (CO-I). Developing an AI-based falsehood detection tool requires knowledge and skills in computer science and engineering, whereas selecting persuasive features within the tool and testing their persuasive efficacy with the intended audience requires social scientific approaches. Thus, this project is designed to maximize the potential of interdisciplinary research collaboration across computer engineering and social science. Moreover, the research team has been monitoring misinformation on COVID-19 and Singaporean’s information behaviours and perceptions toward COVID-19 based on content analysis, focus groups, as well as surveys with a representative sample of Singaporeans. 

Potential Societal Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented health threats to Singaporeans, making them concerned and rely on online health information to seek advice on how to protect themselves from the threats. While this is the time when science and solidarity are more important than ever, falsehoods and wild conspiracy theories impede people from getting correct information and advice which are directly linked to their health. Indeed, the epidemic of misinformation spreading through various online channels makes this global battle even more challenging. To mitigate the harmful impact of misinformation circulating online during the pandemic, this project develops a handy online tool that provides real-time signals of potential falsehood of information on a given online screen. This AI-based falsehood detection tool will help Singaporeans to protect themselves from COVID19-related misinformation. Furthermore, by enhancing individuals’ knowledge and capability to discern misinformation from essential information they need, this tool can help enhance the efficiency of the government and health organizations’ health information delivery.

Scientific Outputs and Project Deliverables

  • Output:  AI-based prototype tool for detecting misinformation on COVID-19
  • One peer-reviewed publication:  “Efficacy of AI-based falsehood detection tool at mitigating the negative impact of misinformation on COVID-19”
  • External grant application:  We will apply for an external grant to refine the developed prototype and to test it beyond the context of COVID-19 to tackle other types of misinformation. The seed grant is essential to the development and pilot testing of the prototype in order to provide some convincing evidence for the prototype’s efficacy at defusing misinformation. 

Current Status

The false detection tool is in the final stage of its development (see below sample) while some additional model training is pending with more recent covid19 information on vaccine. Once completed, a small scale field experiment will be conducted with Singaporean participants to pilot test the tools’ usability and effects on preventing covid19 vaccine hesitancy. An IRB approval has been granted and the study is programmed to be launched via Qualtics.