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City University in London awarded £300,000 Google grant to build app which will help journalists sift through ‘big data’

By Zainab Mahmood

Journalism researchers at City, University of London, are set to lead a European push to combat ‘fake news’ after being awarded a grant by the Google Digital News Initiative.

Thegrant aims to help journalists find and verify information in “big data”.

The £300,000 grant will help researchers at City to build a web-based app called DMINR.

A combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence technology will assist journalists to fact-check.

In its statement the university said: “It also has applications for investigative journalism by sorting and finding connections in so-called ‘big data’ such as police, government and environmental data, and company records.”

City’s researchers will test the app in up to 30 European newsrooms including the elegraph, Guardian and the Investigations Unit at Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE.

Tom Felle, City’s senior lecturer in digital journalism, is leading the DMINR team.

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He said: “As more and more information is stored and made available electronically – by governments; public bodies; supra-national organisations and others – sifting through mass data has become increasingly difficult.

“Few newsrooms have the capacity to undertake digital investigative journalism because of a lack of skills, resources and access to digital tools, yet this sort of accountability and public service journalism is vitally important for democracy.

“Separating the news from the noise is key to the verification of digital information. DMINR serves to empower journalists by supporting them in identifying and making sense of connections in large, complex datasets.

“It will allow journalists to take the lead in breaking original news, build trust and engagement with audiences, combat false information and provide a counter-balance to infotainment and so-called ‘churnalism’.”

The project is expected to take two years to complete starting from September.

This is one of a number of substantial grants made by Google to UK-based digital journalism projects which were announced yesterday.

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