Disinformation research and policy responses in the Balkans
Citizen susceptibility to conspiracies and misinformation in the Balkans is among the worst in Europe, as shown in a 2020 study by GLOBSEC. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of independently certified, established fact-checkers in Bulgaria, and until very recently in Romania too.
This motivated our institute to establish a new research priority area dedicated to studying online disinformation in the Balkans and developing new AI methods for large-scale disinformation analysis in English, Bulgarian and other Balkan languages.
Some of our partners are:
Under the leadership of Prof. Kalina Bontcheva, we established a new regional multi-disciplinary alliance of researchers, fact-checkers and other experts, to act as a catalyst and an amplifier of national and regional actions against disinformation.
Prof. Kalina Bontcheva is the Research Leader on disinformation at the Big Data for Smart Society Institute, as well as the head of the Natural Language Processing (NLP) group at the University of Sheffield. She has coordinated the FP7 PHEME project on rumour and disinformation analysis and is the scientific director of the H2020 WeVerify project on collaborative content verification. Since 2014, Prof. Bontcheva has been researching methods for disinformation analysis combining NLP methods for analysing the textual content with machine learning models for credibility, veracity, and stance detection. These are combined also with the analysis of the mention and hashtag-based networks, in the context of misinformation spread, voting intentions and online abuse.
Prof. Ivan Koychev is the Data Analytics research group leader and leads the MSc. Program in Information Retrieval and Knowledge Discovery. He gained experience in a number of academic and industrial projects including contribution to seven EU funded projects. His main research interests are in the areas of Machine Learning, AI, Information Retrieval, Data/Text Mining and their applications to disinformation analysis. He also brings in a strong track record in Natural Language Processing in Bulgarian and English. His most recent publications have focused on deep learning methods for check worthiness analysis (i.e. whether a given post needs to be fact-checked or not), detection of deception in political debates, verification of claims about images, and detection of toxicity in news articles.
Kalina Bontcheva, *protected email*