Millions of citizens across Europe use the internet and social media every day to read news and to look out for every type of information. Unfortunately, there are actors that exploit these instruments to spread disinformation and to manipulate public opinion, causing distrust in science and legitimate governments and often resulting in criminal actions such as riots and violence against governments or groups targeted by said disinformation. A well-known example is given by conspiracy theories spreading on social media during the COVID-19 emergency. In that regard, fake news and disinformation pose a serious threat both online and offline, often to minorities or marginalised groups. Whereas this is a well-known phenomenon, current solutions only spot fake news and raise awareness on their circulation.
To cope with this issue, 17 leading organisations from 11 European countries join forces in the Horizon Europe project FERMI (Fake nEws Risk MItigator). The consortium met for the first time in Fürstenfeldbruck (DE) hosted by the coordinator, the University of Applied Sciences for Public Administration and Legal Affairs in Bavaria. Its members bring together long-standing expertise in the field of law enforcement, IT, and social sciences (universities and research centres focused on cyber-threats and law enforcement, big and small industries, technology leaders). This combination is essential for the envisioned solution that will provide both digital and non-digital capabilities to counter fake news and disinformation. Additionally, it will allow the FERMI’s consortium to demonstrate the solution in three real life scenarios encompassing both right- and left-wing political extremism and health.
FERMI will exploit a holistic and cross-disciplinary methodology towards a framework that will thoroughly analyse disinformation and fake news (D&FN) and their sources, in combination with all the socioeconomic factors that may affect both the spreading of such incidents and their effects on multiple dimensions of society.
Comprising a set of innovative technological developments, FERMI will facilitate EU Police Authorities to detect and monitor the way that D&FN spread, both in terms of locations and within different segments of the society, and to put in place relevant security countermeasures. It will also produce and disseminate tailor-made training material designed for European Police Authorities, security professionals and stakeholders, as well as for EU citizens in the view to limit the spread and impact of D&FN and increasing digital trust. In doing so, FERMI will contribute to make the web safer by contrasting cyber-threats and their spillovers into real life. This line of action is essential to move towards a trustworthy and reliable digital world, which is fundamental for a fair and democratic future for the European Union. Thus, FERMI will generate knowledge and develop instruments to build an open, democratic, and sustainable society, one of the three pillars of Europe’s digital future.
In FERMI, Convergence, as the assigned SSH expert, will ensure proper monitoring of societal impacts and ethics management during project activities; and for the expected life cycle impact of FERMI at a commercialisation stage, via the deployment of specific methodologies and procedures on which the envisioned product will build on after the project’s end.