Efforts to rid Twitter of false posts are to be the focus of a new UK-led study.
During the 2011 riots in London, there were widespread and untrue claims that London Zoo animals had been set free.
Social media has also been used in global conflicts to spread dangerous and damaging rumours about what is going on.
Now, an international group of researchers led by the University of Sheffield aims to find a way to verify information quickly and source it so that journalists, governments, emergency services and others can know what is really happening – and whether they need to act.
The EU-funded project is building a computer system that is aimed at dispelling urban myths before they have a chance to get significant attention, rather like a lie detector.
The project is to be called Pheme, after the character of Greek mythology who is said to have pried into the affairs of mortals and gods, and repeated what she learned until everyone knew.
Pheme will classify online rumours into four types: speculation – such as whether interest rates might rise; controversy – as over the MMR vaccine; misinformation, where something untrue is spread unwittingly; and disinformation, where it is done with malicious intent.
It will also automatically categorise sources to assess their authority, such as news outlets, individual journalists, experts, potential eyewitnesses and members of the public.
It will also look for a history and background, to help spot where Twitter accounts have been created purely to spread false information.
Pheme will search for sources that corroborate or deny information, and plot how the conversations on social networks evolve, using all of this information to assess whether it is true or false.
Team leader Dr Kalina Bontcheva explained: “There was a suggestion after the 2011 riots that social networks should have been shut down, to prevent the rioters using them to organise.
“But social networks also provide useful information – the problem is that it all happens so fast and we can’t quickly sort truth from lies.
“This makes it difficult to respond to rumours, for example, for the emergency services to quash a lie in order to keep a situation calm. Our system aims to help with that, by tracking and verifying information in real time.
“We can already handle many of the challenges involved, such as the sheer volume of information in social networks, the speed at which it appears and the variety of forms, from tweets, to videos, pictures and blog posts.
“But it’s currently not possible to automatically analyse, in real time, whether a piece of information is true or false and this is what we’ve now set out to achieve.”
Twitter already offers public figures and organisations the opportunity to become “verified” users, which provides their Twitter account with a blue tick to prove that they are who they say they are.
The Ultimate American Road Trip: Route 66
If you’re looking for the omega American road trip then you’ve got to hit the Mother Road, otherwise known as Route 66. From Chicago to LA, it’s a journey that’ll provide the experience of a lifetime, showing you the heart of a great nation.
Start in Chicago & Chase the Sun
In reality, the best always head west. Would you rather end the trip in the Windy City, or just in time to catch a gorgeous L.A. sunset on the beach? There’s just something deeply spiritual for folks when we head west. It becomes an adventure. It becomes a vehicular voyage to the sea. Here are some of the highlights you can expect in order:
• Illinois: It’s a pretty straight shot through the state from Chicago through Springfield (which has some stretches of restored Route 66) and southwest to St. Louis. There’s a bit of the bright lights of big cities, but also a good calm stretch of rural to cruise through as well; vast fields of corn and farmland for close to 300 miles.
• Missouri: Once you hit East St. Louis you’ll again be greeted by sky scrapers, industrial areas and the mark of modernity but then it’s another SE straight shot through the entire belly of the state.
• Kansas: You’re only going to spend a little time in the good’ol Kansas heartland. And by little we mean a whopping 14 miles far down in the bottom south east corner. You’ll go through two towns: Galena and Baxter Springs but rest assured there’s great classic restaurants and places that’ve been open as long as Route 66 has been around. In fact, it’s because of road tripper like you just passin’on through that keep’em goin.
• Oklahoma: You’re going to go through two huge metropolises that have “country” written all over’em: Tulsa first and then into Oklahoma City before heading directly west towards the Pan Handle. Of all 8 states, it’s here that they take Route 66 the most seriously. It’s got the most preserved still-drivable miles and you’ll be able to see the remnants of Kiowa, Apache and Comanche Native American land. And, you’ll get to take the same route as families long ago in the Dust Bowl took to escape.
• Texas: You’re going to go through the upper tip of the Texas Pan Handle that takes you through Amarillo. It looks short on a map but the 200-mile stretch of plains is a sight to behold like none other. If you can time it so you cut through here in the afternoon on a sunny day your spirit will be recharged. Just try not to pay any attention to all the truckers!
• New Mexico: Welcome to the Land of Enchantment where you’ll pass through Sun Belt city and Albuquerque. These days, it can be a bit challenging to stay strictly on the old road but with all the sandstone mesas and pine forests it’s definitely worth it.
• Arizona: In Arizona you’ll stay in the northern plains rather than heading down into the really hot areas around Phoenix. Instead, you’ll pass directly through Flagstaff which is a mountain town and where Northern Arizona University is located. The sights here are like a completely different world from everything you’ve seen so far, especially once you begin to head south right before passing into California. Oh, and because of the high speeds on the I-40, this will feel like one of those awesome car track days.
• California: Once you reach this point get ready to cruise through rolling hills, vineyards, orchards, stunning landscapes and then at Barstow you should begin smelling the sea. From San Bernardino and Pasadena to Santa Monica it’s simply breathtaking.
This is only a taste of the experience really. You’ve just got to get out and do it. There’s plenty of great resources online to keep you on track and if you have the time you don’t have to miss a thing. Enjoy!
Key Moments from Trump’s Impeachment Hearing
Heartbreaking; Another School Shooting Santa Clarita, CA
Santa Clarita, California, high school shooting leaves 2 students dead, multiple injured
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KABC) — A 16-year-old boy shot five fellow students, two fatally, Thursday morning at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita before turning the .45-caliber handgun on himself, authorities said.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesperson said multiple 911 calls prompted firefighter-paramedics to respond about 7:40 a.m. to the school at 21900 Centurion Way.
Six students, including the gunman, were found in the quad suffering from gunshot wounds, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news conference. All six were transported to hospitals, where two of them, a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, were later pronounced dead.
The surviving victims were described as two girls, ages 14 and 15, and a 14-year-old boy.
In a tweet, Henry Mayo Hospital said it had received four patients.
Their names were not immediately disclosed. The sheriff said the deceased girl’s parents were at the hospital. He was notified of the second fatality during a press conference at the school.
Gunman turns .45 caliber on himself
According to sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener, surveillance video “clearly” shows the suspect pulling a semi-automatic handgun out of his backpack in the quad and shooting five classmates before shooting himself in the head.
Thursday was the gunman’s 16th birthday, the captain said.
He was listed in grave condition at a hospital, according to Villanueva.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, authorities released a description of the suspect as a manhunt got underway. Heavily armed deputies and an armored SWAT vehicle were seen at a home near the school, but it was unclear if the house was connected to the investigation.
The high school remained on lockdown for hours after the incident. Shortly before 11 a.m., lockdowns were lifted at all campuses in the district, as well as Rosedell and Highland elementary schools.
Central Park, at 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road, was being used as a reunification point for parents and students, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Undersheriff Tim Murakami tweeted an apology to parents, saying investigators need to interview “every student at Saugus HS” before they can be released.
In a statement, the White House said President Donald Trump was monitoring ongoing reports about the shooting.
“The White House encourages all those in the area to follow the advice of local law enforcement and first responders,” the statement said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted an expression of gratitude to the emergency responders.
“We simply should not have to fear for our kids’ lives when we drop them off at school,” the governor said. Addressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Newsom asked: “How many more lives will be lost? How many more shootings will we have to endure? We need commonsense gun reform. NOW.”
Amid the chaos at the scene, the number of reported victims fluctuated throughout the morning. The sheriff later confirmed that six people were shot, including the gunman.