Social media rumours put to the test with Pheme

A new project aims to sort internet rumor and hoaxes from real news.

BBC News – Lie detector on the way to test social media rumours.

A lie detector for social media is being built to try to verify online rumours.

The system will analyse, in real time, whether a posting online is true.

The aim is to help organisations, including governments and emergency services, to respond more effectively to events.

The system will categorise the sources of information to assess their authority. Categories include news outlets, journalists, experts, eye witnesses, members of the public and bots – accounts that automatically generate social media posts.

It will also examine accounts for a history or background to try to identify whether the account has been created just to spread rumours.

The first set of results is expected to be ready in 18 months and will be tested mainly with groups of journalists and healthcare professionals.

It’s not at all like a lie detector test, it’s analysis of data that will make a judgement about the potential veracity of the claim. I’m really interested to see how it works and if people will even care to check whether it’s true or not.

The project is aptly named Pheme, after the Greek goddess of fame and renown. If you were in her favor you’d get notability but you wouldn’t want to feel her wrath of scandalous rumors. In short, she was kind of the gossip goddess. She was PERFECT for the internet.

Torkel Ødegård contributed to this story.

Tip: Brad Smith

  8 comments for “Social media rumours put to the test with Pheme

  1. Kevin
    February 20, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    From my experience, most people don’t want to know if the story they’re reposting isn’t true. Many become hostile when the veracity of the article they agree with or simply find fascinating, is questioned. Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

  2. Bonnie
    February 20, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    I’ve found that some of my older friends aren’t interested in the truth. No matter how many times I tell them to check Snopes before sending out a “warning” to their entire e-mail list, they keep believing them and sending them.

    Generally people younger than me don’t send hoaxes – they just send risqué jokes!

  3. One Eyed Jack
    February 21, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    The motivation to share something, anything, supersedes the need for truth. Gossip endures for a reason. The salaciousness and sensationalism of a story is often more important than the truth when measured in social circles.

  4. February 21, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    The BBC article didn’t link to them but there is a Twitter feed and a website associated with this project:

    Twitter @PhemeEU –

    It’ll be an interesting project to follow, but academic research projects like this often don’t result in a usable product at the end.

  5. Bones
    February 21, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Yep. That’s as true now as it ever was….

  6. Anthony
    February 21, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    When I read pheme I thought it was some variation on meme. I just wasn’t able to figure out what the ph were for. Still kind of appropriate though. Checking a meme with Pheme.

  7. Chris Howard
    February 22, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    I’m interested to see how it handles the gray areas.

    I understand that its, probably, not made for topics like religion, the spiritual, and the supernatural but what happens when one of those beliefs starts to edge in on sciences turf?

  8. Kevin
    February 22, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    “but what happens when one of those beliefs starts to edge in on sciences turf?”

    Science wins!

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