Data and Disinformation

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 07/22/2021
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Data and disinformationThe 2016 elections were not the first time we came across misinformation. In fact, it has a history of going back at least 200 hundred years as noted by President Thomas Jefferson in a letter, “nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”

This issue we face extends beyond just misinformation. Many stories contain a nugget of truth while lacking contextualized details, leaving out relevant view points, and using inflammatory language. This is a symptom of a larger problem called disinformation, or information that is intentionally manufactured and disseminated in order to sway opinion or obfuscate the truth. 

Data and Disinformation, a featured article from Computer magazine, addresses the role social media has played in mass consumption of unreliable information and how it brought about fear during the COVID-19 pandemic as people turned to digital platforms for live updates about the virus. 


Governments, scientists, health authorities, and media organizations have the challenge to communicate effectively and provide scientific-based content about the virus to the public. However, misinformation surrounding the pandemic has begun to spread rapidly online. In its fact sheet edition of April 2020, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reported that, between January and March 2020, in a sample of 225 pieces of misinformation rated false or misleading by fact-checkers, 59% of misinformation was created by reconfiguring and recontextualizing information and 38% was entirely fabricated. 3 Interestingly, most of the cases were cheap fakes, created with simple and readily accessible software, rather than highly technologically complex deepfakes. In an effort to assess and measure the capability of media forensic algorithms and systems, the National Institute of Standards and Technology launched a coordinated initiative called the Open Media Forensics Challenge Evaluation (OpenMFC) in 2020. The main objective of OpenMFC is to advance the state of the art of media forensics technologies to automatically detect automated imagery (image and video) manipulation.

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EVENT: Tech Forum on Mitigating Society Harms in a Social Media World, 21-22 September 2021

To do our part, the IEEE Computer Society has organized Tech Forum on Mitigating Society Harms in a Social Media World, which brings together technology leaders, policy makers, researchers, and concerned computing professionals to explore the intersection of current technical efforts and public policies and their resulting impact on society. 

This event focuses on elemental contributors to societal harm that can be amplified by social media – Hate Speech, Terrorism/Radicalization/Exploitation, Misinformation, and Disinformation. These are conversations you don’t want to miss! 

Register for Free Pass