Alt News is a fact-checking nonprofit journalistic initiative that debunks fake news (politics, news, science, society, education and religion) rampant in India. In addition to fact-checking, Alt News also covers news skipped/misrepresented by the mainstream media such as caste-based atrocities, religious discrimination, labour struggles, farmer struggles, etc.
Impact of Misinformation
The proliferation of misinformation on social media and other platforms can generate hefty damaging consequences. They can deceive/influence people’s views while appearing to come from a trusted source.
The World Economic Forum ranks the spread of misinformation and fake news, as among the world’s top global risks.
The project involved building a RESTful backend that handled verification & workflow for the fact check process.
A mobile app as an interface for users to verify media through instant fact check (past media) and request fact check for media that is not yet ‘fact-checked’.
We built a dashboard for the Alt News team to monitor and process incoming requests through features like de-duping information, merge, and bulk response.
The Alt News team was inundated with verification requests for credibility of a media or a story on social media (Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook); often this media had already been in circulation and been used for misinformation and manually responding to those requests was untenable.
As a solution, it made sense to create a structured database for misinformation and responding to such queries via this system.
QED42 is a personality-driven team. They have the right people and personalities aggregated to create a cohesive and effective team. We've operated in an agile approach during our entire engagement with QED42 and have appreciated the flexibility of this approach as we are constantly in flux. It greatly contributed to the success of projects and our ability to meet scheduling goals.
Media Verification Engine - Takes media as input and if there is a match responds with the story corresponding to that media.
Mobile app - for end-users to verify media, request fact checks and read Alt News stories, available in English and Hindi and intuitive enough to be used in rural India
Fact Check Dashboard - to manage user requests and respond to them (if not already responded by the verification engine)
Zero click fact check - enabling users to directly share media from WhatsApp or their phone gallery to the app
Two-way communication - where users can request to fact-check a specific image/video and get notified instantly (with the ability to extend communication to IM bots for better distribution)
Mechanism to detect and monitor viral topics based on requests intelligence, and share fact-checked news with users
QED42 took ownership of development and consultation for Alt News. This included multiple workshops with the Alt News team to understand their core problem and to come up with a solution that reaches the masses. The aim was that anybody who can operate WhatsApp should be able to use this app, even in rural areas. The idea was to fact check photos/videos with minimum effort.
Alt News and the QED42 team worked together towards a common goal of taking the existing website further as an application based on an understanding of the fake news ecosystem in India which is also a pressing concern worldwide.
With the Alt News team bringing in domain knowledge and QED42 contributing as a technology and design partner, we created an app that is universal, easy to navigate and focused on users. The design of the Alt News app was focused to increase the impact and cause of Alt News.
As fake forwards and misinformation are driving the world, some of us question reality while some can't differentiate, that's where ‘Alt News’ comes in, as we design for the truth.
To increase the reach of the cause we designed an app that can be operated both in Hindi and English
An easy way to fact-check via a simple image or video upload
We designed it for curiosity and discovery of all things that trigger the search for the truth
A fact-check history for easy tracking and anytime access
A mindfully designed app for everyone
With a team of designers, researchers, fact-checkers and developers, we followed an interactive and iterative design process.
The existing website was designed in the form of a magazine of debunked facts. Alt News wanted to create a platform for one-on-one engagement and reciprocate to queries after fact-checking them.
We had to calculate the impact of Alt News against misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information, increase global awareness, close the loop between fact-checker and the fact, and design an application that fits how people consume information on a mobile device.
We created an easy to use app where users could upload any viral image or video with relevant text.
We created an easy to use app where users could upload any viral image or video with relevant text. We did not want the request submission to be a cumbersome process hence there was no user login.
We developed an intuitive dashboard, where the Alt News team can find similar requests and collectively respond to them which in turn sends notifications to all the users who placed those requests. The dashboard also provides some additional features like rejecting irrelevant requests. The dashboard also enables our client to send out broadcast notifications to all app users regarding any viral fact-checked fake news. The intuitive dashboard identifies and clubs requests with the same or similar images/videos which makes it easier for the admin to respond to requests.
Collecting similar request and merging them into new or existing fact-checked articles
Retiring all old requests and setting their status as rejected
Enabling the Alt News team to bookmark requests
Ability to access instant fact checks and notifications
Perceptual Hash Algorithm
We developed a perceptual hash algorithm to build a search engine for the Alt News app. The user can upload an image/video from their gallery or WhatsApp and the app, in turn, tells the user if that particular media has been a part of any misinformation (even if the image has been modified like watermark, etc.).
Here is how the algorithm facilitated instant fact check –
Step 1 - Alt News team uploads fact-checked articles along with the media on the dashboard/server.
Step 2 - Our algorithm then fetches and stores the hash of the media file
Step 3 - When a user uploads a viral media file(image/video) on the mobile app. The algorithm automatically checks and displays the article uploaded by the Alt News team with a similar hash value.
Step 4 - If there is no match for the exact hash value the app instantly notifies the user that the story/article is not fact-checked yet.