Universities launch chatbot in response to COVID-19 misinformation battle

Tyrone Stewart

The Universities of Liverpool and Dundee have joined forces to deliver a chatbot which helps improve people’s ability to spot ‘semi-fake’ news.

The Fake News Immunity Chatbot, launched in response to the amount of COVID-19 misinformation circulating the internet, introduces users to a quiz-like game featuring rhetorical strategies – and fallacies – from great philosophers including Aristotle, Socrates, and Gorgias.

Aristotle explains the 10 fallacies, Socrates discusses the need to question everything, and Gorgias challenges mainstream opinions. Using what they have learnt, users are offered up news items and asked to determine whether or not they are misleading.

“Our chatbot is unique as it allows people to play and be trained by the greatest thinkers and become their own fact-checkers. You can play by yourself or encourage family, friends or colleagues to join in so you can quiz each other,” said Dr Elena Musi, who is leading the project and a lecturer in communication and media at the University of Liverpool.

“We hope that with our chatbot, people will develop critical thinking that strengthens their digital literacy and helps them and their communities to become more resilient to information manipulation.

“Acquiring critical digital literacy collectively, can help us build a healthier, stronger and smarter democracy.”

The Fake News Immunity Chatbot is part of the UK Research and Innovation-funded ‘Being Alone Together: Building Fake News Immunity’ project, which is working to fight against the proliferation of misinformation and fake news.