"Hack the Fake: Fighting Disinformation" Online Hackathon

Feature20.07.2020Lea Choueifaty - Project Coordinator, Lebanon and Syria
Disinformation Hackthon

FNF Lebanon and Syria has engaged this year in a fight against Disinformation and fake news with the launch of the FNF yearly global theme #FreedomFightsFake and has started navigating the different fields with different stakeholders, starting by a first partnership with the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Université Saint Joseph de Beirut (USJ).

“Hack the Fake: fighting Disinformation” was a two and half-day hackathon from the 3rd until the 5th of July 2020. The work was kicked off with an opening ceremony gathering all the participants, mentors and trainers for an interesting international panel discussion about the inter-relation between technology and disinformation. All three speakers: Ann Cathrin Riedel, Chairwoman of LOAD e.V., Fadi Zaraket, Associate professor at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (AUB) and Katia Raya, Lecturer at ESIB-USJ, gave the participants a proper introduction to the world of disinformation and fake news, and dived into the details of countering them.

The two and a half-day hackathon provided a unique opportunity for university students to spend a weekend of their time looking at effective solutions related to specific problems related to the fake news and disinformation topic. Students worked in inter-disciplinary teams that have complementary skills such as technical skills, design skills, business and entrepreneurship skills and public speaking skills.

70 students divided into 17 teams were engaged in the process and they were introduced to various online platforms helping them achieve their pitch, such as Slack, Mural, Prototype.io. Throughout the weekend, the teams were supported by various mentors from FNF,USJ and AUB on different levels: Entrepreneurship, content about disinformation, public speaking and pitching, prototyping, using artificial intelligence.

A pre-pitch session took place on the last day, after which 12 teams were selected to pitch in front of a renowned panel. Our judges were Mr. Ayman Mhanna, Executive Director of the Samir Kassir Foundation (SKF) Dr. Ayman Kayssi, Professor and Associate Dean at the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA) at AUB and Dr. Bashar El Hassan, Chair of the IEEE Lebanon section and Professor at the Engineering Faculty of the Lebanese University. The judges rated the teams based on 7 criteria: Innovation, Feasibility, Effectiveness, Team potential, Prototype, Presentation and Sustainability.

Finally, 3 teams were announced as co-winners:

- Khabriye: is an app that will give individuals the opportunity to engage with the news and learn how to avoid misinformation through a combination of articles, videos, and trivia games as well as an integrated points system

- FactSeekers: is a fact checking platform where the public and media outlets can collaborate with trained journalism students who are ready to check the overload of unconfirmed information, before having it published. 

- Unveil: Unveil gamifies university-level media literacy educational programs through an interactive, story-driven roleplaying mobile game.

The three excellent teams will benefit of support from all the partners to develop and implement their ideas; FNF offered a training based on the team’s need, USJ offered business support at Berytech and AUB offered up to 3000 USD in money prize.