This project is supported by our academic partner Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim and the researchers Daniel Erdsiek, Patrick Schulte and Olga Slivko.
The technical progress tremendously increased connectivity to the internet using mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets. Hence, nowadays an increasing number of individuals uses digital channels in order to communicate with others or to obtain information coming from a vast variety of sources. Social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, or messengers, such as WhatsApp, Telegram or Snapchat, became a widespread medium of communication, but also a standard source of getting everyday information like news as well as more specialized knowledge via channels with some particular focuses, for example, history, art or humour.
All these channels significantly reduce time costs to gather information and are very comfortable in usage. Therefore, many people heavily rely on the information from social networks and messengers in their everyday life and make their decisions, including economic (investments, housing, entertainment) and political decisions. However, whether people can make optimal decisions based on this information will strongly depend on the accuracy of the information disseminated online and on the capability to further aggregate and analyze this information.
Once information gets disseminated at such a high speed, the problem of false information arises. Internet users sometimes spread false information for various reasons (remuneration or affiliation) and through various channels. Examples might be that people deliberately post false reviews on a hotel booking site or deliberately post false stories on social media platforms. Due to the high degree of anonymity on the internet, it often remains unclear whether this information are valid, e.g. because it is unknown whether the author of the review really has visited the hotel.
Moreover, a substantial share of information is spread by automated programs (bots), or, their special form, the so-called social bots active in social media and messengers. On social media, these bots can appear as regular users posting their content, or sharing already existing content.
These social bots are often programmed in a way that they promote certain views, therefore, they can distort the perceptions of the platform’s real users. For instance, a study from the Oxford University has found that over one third of the pro-Trump tweets after the first presidential debate against Hillary Clinton have been written by social bots. Similarly, it has been shown that the majority of tweets by social bots concerned with the Brexit vote supported the “leave” campaign.
Along with information disseminated by bots, the network structure and algorithms implemented on online platforms also lead to a selective representation of current events for each user, a so-called “Facebook bubble” which doesn’t help to get complete information.
In the digitalized world, problems arising in online platforms could be addressed with artificial intelligence. Potential solutions could include “good” bots, gathering and verifying information, including the techniques of automated text recognition or simple machine learning. Bots could help online users to verify information, collect figures and visualize them, for example, build graphs. The solution proposed in the research project should help to assess large masses of online information and analyze it on an everyday basis in order to save time and search effort for online users.
The topic “Artificial Intelligence and Digital Economy – Problems and Chances” can be selected by YES! teams from the region South-West as a YES! 2017 topic.
This YES! 2017 topic has been selected by the team of the Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium Weinheim.
The introduction of the YES! 2017 team Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium Weinheim can be found here. Find out more about the team #DigitalTruth.
The project “Artificial Intelligence and Digital Economy – Problems and Chances” was proposed by researchers of the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim. The YES!-teams are supported by the researchers Daniel Erdsiek, Patrick Schulte and Olga Slivko.
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Photo credits (top to bottom): (c) shutterstock.com / Maxim Gaigul, (c) Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium Weinheim, (c) ZBW / Kai Meinke, (c) Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung GmbH (ZEW) Mannheim, (c) shutterstock.com / Maxim Gaigul, (c) ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft, (c) Joachim Herz Stiftung.