Vaidas Saldžiūnas, Defence Editor and Media Expert on Disinformation, DELFI & Viktoras Daukšas, Director, Demaskuok.lt initiative
Disinformation agents already skilfully employ a large spectrum of measures ranging from historical sentiments to the most advanced IT solutions. And it is important to acknowledge that the intentional spreading of false information in order to deceive and to undermine trust in existing models of governance will not slow down and will become even more advanced and more creative.
Countermeasures often prove too slow and too fragmented, and they still rely on an outdated ‘2G’ approach, where the first G stands for Google search (manual monitoring) and the second G for Gut feeling (no data-driven evidence).
What is more, most public institutions come across allegations of attempting to become ‘Ministries of truth’ if they get into debunking.
The problem is complex, and it requires complex solutions — involving both technology and cooperation between multiple parties.
Against this backdrop, the Lithuanian-born initiative Demaskuok! (Debunk! in English) seeks to provide a speedy, independent, transparent and fair solution, with maximum outreach.
An analytical tool capable of spotting and identifying disinformation within 2 minutes in real time, it brings together the seven largest media outlets in Lithuania (online, TV, radio) — representing 90% of national audience coverage; the three StratCom units of the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and armed forces; volunteers comprising Lithuania’s community of ‘elves’, journalists, as well as researchers); and an experienced team of IT geeks.
The platform, which is funded by Google Digital Innovation Fund and DELFI — the biggest media outlet in the Baltics — has been developed in 18 months and, over the last 7 months, it has been tested by 2 fulltime journalists and 30 elves. In the near future, 20 more journalists will be trained to use the platform. The tool analyses 10,000 articles in Lithuanian and Russian languages per day, but that is definitely not the limit.
The platform also provides automated user-friendly solutions for repetitive and manually-performed tasks, thus saving journalists significant amounts of time for investigation and writing. The current record track is a full debunking process — from spotting disinformation to release of an article — implemented just in two hours.
Seeking to raise awareness and get the EU and media organisations trained up ahead of next year’s various crucial elections, the team of Demaskuok! is now seeking partnerships to make the platform operational cross-language, cross-country.