Knight Prototype Fund awards $1 million to 20 projects to improve the flow of accurate information

Press Release

June 22, 2017

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Phoenix, Az. – June 22, 2017– Twenty projects that seek to improve the flow of accurate information will receive $1 million through the Knight Prototype Fund, which helps people explore early-stage media and information ideas with up to $50,000 in funding. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation launched the open call for ideas in March to address concerns about the spread of misinformation and produce ways to build trust in journalism.

Several of the projects focus on involving the public in news gathering and developing tools to better reach diverse and politically disparate communities. Some focus on media literacy, providing ways to help people become responsible consumers of digital content. Others offer tools that advance deeper, and more thoughtful methods of fact-checking including better ways to track misinformation, understand its sources and channels and more effectively communicate the credibility of information.

Teams will build on these ideas over the next nine months, starting with human-centered design training. They will then gather for a demo day to share their discoveries and prototypes.

“It is vitally important to our democracy that we battle misinformation and improve the flow of accurate news and information so the public can make informed decisions. These experiments aim to help move us closer to this goal,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

“The winning organizations and ideas use technology innovation as a tool to help advance a healthy news ecosystem. Through them, we hope to gain a better understanding of people’s behaviors and motivations in consuming and sharing news and information,” said John S. Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for technology innovation.

“Our democracy depends on fostering a more trustworthy public square. But there is no one solution to fix trust and combat misinformation. These wicked problems demand creative and diverse solutions,” said Josh Stearns, associate director of the public square program at the Democracy Fund. “We look forward to learning alongside these grantees as they explore new ideas to strengthen the news ecosystem."

"As the nation and the world look for ways to address the challenges of misinformation and distrust in news, it is heartening to know that so many individuals and institutions are exploring meaningful ways to improve fact checking, engage the public with quality news, and increase our understanding of how misinformation spreads,” said Elizabeth Good Christopherson, president and CEO of the Rita Allen Foundation. “We are excited to partner with Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund on this open call, and eager to see how these winning ideas will improve the flow of news and information.” 

Knight launched the Prototype Fund, whose open calls are focused on timely themes and opportunities, in June 2012 to invite people to experiment, learn and iterate before moving on to the more costly stage of building out a project. To date, Knight has invested more than $10 million in the Prototype Fund, with several of the projects –including Heartmob, StoryCorps, mRelief and GovLoop– receiving additional funding to further develop their projects.

The 20 winners of the Knight Prototype Fund will be recognized today at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Phoenix.

They include:

Breaking filter bubbles in science journalism by the University of California, Santa Cruz

(Project lead: Erika Check Hayden | Santa Cruz, California @Erika_Check, @UCSC_SciCom): Producing visually-engaging science journalism around topics such as climate change and genetics, to determine whether content delivered by a trusted messenger in a culturally-relevant context has greater reach. The articles will be tested through the digital platform EscapeYourBubble.com, which distributes curated content to users across ideological divides.

Calling Bullshit in the Age of Fake News by the University of Washington (Project lead: Jevin West | Seattle @jevinwest, @UW_iSchool): Developing a curriculum and set of tools to teach students and the public to better assess quantitative information and combat misinformation, with a particular emphasis on data, visualizations and statistics.

ChartCheck by Periscopic (Project lead: Megan Mermis | Portland, Oregon | @periscopic): Addressing the spread of misinformation through charts, graphs and data visualizations by fact-checking these resources and publishing results. The team will also build tools to evaluate the spread of these charts on social media and the Internet.

Crosscheck by Vanderbilt University in collaboration with First Draft (Project lead: Lisa Fazio and Claire Wardle | Nashville, Tennessee | @lkfazio, @cward1e, @firstdraftnews, @crosscheck): Using design features to make correct news more memorable, so that people can recall it more easily when faced with false information, using a platform initially developed in France to address misinformation around the country’s election. 

Facts Matter by PolitiFact (Project lead: Aaron Sharockman | St. Petersburg, Florida | @asharock, @PolitiFact): Helping to improve trust in fact-checking, particularly among people who identify as conservative, through experiments including in-person events; a mobile-game that tracks misconceptions about specific facts; diverse commentators who would assess fact-checking reports; and a study of the language used in these reports to determine their effect on perceptions of trustworthiness.

Glorious ContextuBot by Bad Idea Factory (Project lead: Daniel Schultz | Philadelphia | @biffud, @slifty): Helping people become better consumers of online audio and video content through a tool that provides the original source of individual clips and identifies who else has discussed it on the news.

Hoaxy Bot-o-Meter by Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research (Project leads: Filippo Menczer and Valentin Pentchev | Bloomington, Indiana | @Botometer, @truthyatindiana, @IUNetSci): Developing a tool to uncover attempts to use Internet bots to boost the spread of misinformation and shape public opinion. The tool aims to reveal how this information is generated and broadcasted, how it becomes viral, its overall reach and how it competes with accurate information for placement on user feeds.

Immigration Lab by Univision News (Project lead: Ronny Rojas | Miami | @ronnyrojas, @UniNoticias): Engaging undocumented immigrants on issues that affect their lives by creating a reliable news resource to help them access and gather information. The project team will do on-the-ground research in communities with a high percentage of undocumented immigrants and learn about their media literacy skills, news consumption habits and needs, and trusted information sources.

KQED Learn by KQED (Project lead: Randall Depew | San Francisco | @randydepew, @KQEDEdSpace): Encouraging young people to ask critical questions that deepen learning and improve media literacy through KQED Learn, a free online platform for students and teachers that reveals ways to ask good questions, investigate answers and share conclusions.

Media Literacy @ Your Library by American Library Association in collaboration with the Center for News Literacy (Project lead: Samantha Oakley | Chicago | @ALALibrary, @NewsLiteracy): Developing an adult media literacy program in five public libraries, including a series of online learning sessions, resources and an in-person workshop to train library workers to help patrons become more informed media consumers.

News Inequality Project (Project leads: Hamdan Azhar, Cathy Deng, Christian MilNeil, and Leslie Shapiro | Portland, Maine | @HamdanAzhar, @cthydng, @c_milneil, @lmshap, @pressherald): Developing a web-based analytics dashboard to help media organizations and community organizers understand how – and how often – different communities are covered in news outlets over time.

News Quality Score Project (Project lead: Frederic Filloux | Palo Alto, California | @filloux): Creating a tool to surface quality journalism from the web, at scale and in real-time, through algorithms and machine learning. The tool will evaluate and score content on criteria ranging from the notoriety of authors and publishers to an analysis of various components of the story structure.

NewsTracker.org by PBS NewsHour and Miles O’Brien Productions (Project lead: Cameron Hickey | Washington, D.C. | @cameronhickey, @newshour): Developing a tool that combines online news content with engagement data from social media and other sources to help journalists and others better understand the scale, scope and shape of the misinformation problem. The tool will enable content analysis by gathering data about what is being written, by whom, where it is distributed, and the size of the audience consuming it.

Putting Civic Online Reasoning in Civics Class by Stanford History Education Group, Stanford University (Project lead: Sam Wineburg | Palo Alto, California | @SHEG_Stanford, @samwineburg): Creating professional development resources for teachers to become better consumers of digital content, in addition to classroom-ready materials that they can use to help students find and assess information online.

Social Media Interventions by Boston University (Project leads: Jacob Groshek and Dylan Walker | Boston | @jgroshek, @EMSatBU, @dylanwalker): Experimenting with the effectiveness of combatting the spread of misinformation through real-time online interventions, such as direct messages to users who post or share false information.

The Documenters Project by City Bureau (Project lead: Darryl Holliday | Chicago | @d_holli, @city_bureau): Strengthening local media coverage and building trust in journalism by creating an online network of citizen “documenters” who receive training in the use of journalistic ethics and tools, attend public civic events and produce short summaries that are posted online as a public resource.

Veracity.ai (Project lead: Danny Rogers | Baltimore): Helping to curb the financial incentives of creating misleading content with automatically-updated lists of “fake news” websites and easy-to-deploy tools that allow ad buyers to block, in bulk, the domains where misinformation is propagated.

Viz Lab (Project lead: Caroline Sinders | @carolinesinders, Francis Tseng | @frnsys, Susie Cagle | @susie_c, San Francisco): Developing a dashboard to track and visualize images and ‘memes,’ as common sources of fake news, to enable journalists and researchers to more easily understand the origins of the image, its promoters and where it might have been altered and then redistributed.

Who Said What by Joostware (Project lead: Delip Rao | San Francisco | @deliprao, @joostware): Helping people more easily fact-check audio and video news clips with a search tool that annotates millions of these clips and allows users to explore both what is said and the identity of the speaker.

Technical Schema for Credibility by Meedan in collaboration with Hacks/Hackers (Project lead: Xiao Mina | San Francisco | @anxiaostudio, @meedan, @hackshackers): Creating a clear, standardized framework to define the credibility of a piece of content, how conclusions about its credibility were reached, and how to communicate that information effectively.


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

About the Democracy Fund:
The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Since 2011, Democracy Fund has invested more than $50 million in support of effective governance, modern elections, and a vibrant public square. For more information, please visit www.democracyfund.org.

About the Rita Allen Foundation:

The Rita Allen Foundation invests in transformative ideas in their earliest stages to leverage their growth and promote breakthrough solutions to significant problems. It enables early-career biomedical scholars to do pioneering research, seeds innovative approaches to fostering informed civic engagement, and develops knowledge and networks to build the effectiveness of the philanthropic sector. Throughout its work, the Foundation embraces collaboration, creativity, learning and leadership. For more information, visit ritaallen.org.

 

CONTACTS: 

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 301-908-2646, [email protected]

Jessica Harris, Communications Associate, Democracy Fund, 202-448-4503,

[email protected]

Molly Sharlach, Communications and Digital Engagement, Rita Allen Foundation,

609-683-8010, [email protected]