Hacks/Hackers, Partners Advance to Phase II of National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator

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The ARTT Guide software tool presents, for the first time, a unique framework of possible responses for everyday conversations around tricky topics, all informed by online information analysis, to help motivated citizens answer the question: “What do I say (and how do I say it)?”

October 24, 2022 — Hacks/Hackers, the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, and partner organizations have received a new $5 million award from the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator. The award will support Phase II development of the Analysis and Response Toolkit for Trust (ARTT), a suite of expert-informed resources that are intended to provide guidance and encouragement to individuals and communities as they address contentious or difficult topics online.

Over the past year, during Phase I of the Convergence Accelerator’s Track F: Trust & Authenticity in Communications Systems program, the team developed a software prototype called the “ARTT Guide” to support individuals in online conversations. Over the coming two years this software tool will be refined during Phase II.

“Motivated citizens strive to provide their communities with reliable information. While research shows their work is crucial for countering misinformation, the challenge is overwhelming. The ARTT Guide tool will support these citizens by providing easy access to accurate information, tips for effective and trust-building conversations, and encouragement of their efforts,” said Connie Moon Sehat, ARTT Principal Investigator.

Connie Moon Sehat, Hacks/Hackers Researcher at Large, is the principal investigator (PI) for the ARTT project. Amy X. Zhang, Assistant Professor at University of Washington (UW)’s Allen School, and Franziska Roesner, Associate Professor, Allen School, serve as co-Principal Investigators (co-PIs). Kate Starbird, Associate Professor in the UW Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) and Director of the UW Center for an Informed Public, Tim Althoff, Assistant Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, and Tanu Mitra, Assistant Professor, UW Information School, all participate as senior personnel on the project.

“ARTT’s guided responses are sourced from the latest research in psychology, conflict resolution, media literacy, and other fields. While our tool will offer suggestions on how to best correct information, it will also give users guidance on other response possibilities, including: _co-verify, de-escalate, empathize, encourage healthy skepticism, encourage norms, listen, share, or t_ake perspective. In this way, ARTT users are empowered to develop their own responses,” said co-PI Amy X. Zhang.

“We are tackling vaccine efficacy first before addressing additional topics. And to ensure our tool reflects the practical needs of the people who will use it, we have been organizing cohorts of users to help us finish the design of the tool. These cohorts include motivated citizens in online communities, local health communicators based in specific areas, and educators who want to use the Guide as a social media teaching tool,” said co-PI Franziska Roesner.

Phase II of the ARTT project is led by Hacks/Hackers, a non-profit organization focused on journalism and technology, and the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at University of Washington. Throughout Phase I, a variety of organizations including Wikimedia DC, MuckRock Foundation, and Social Science Research Council collaborated and partnered in the project.

“It is rewarding to see the conversations around credibility and communication online that were first sparked at our first MisinfoCon at MIT in 2017 blossom into a project of this scope, and with such potentially practical benefits for society. As an incubator for projects that bring together interdisciplinary teams of journalists, researchers, technologists, and policymakers, Hacks/Hackers is excited to continue to help take people’s ideas into the real world,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, Hacks/Hackers board member.

Additional advising in Phase I has come from members of WHO’s Vaccine Safety Net. In Phase II, the ARTT team will be joined by members of the National Public Health Information Coalition, the Center for Humane Technology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Georgia Tech Research Institute, and others.

“By enabling conversation where trust exists in communities, ARTT’s focus on developing tools that help discuss difficult topics is incredibly important,” said Michael Pozmantier, program director for Track F: Trust & Authenticity in Communications Systems of NSF’s Convergence Accelerator. “The NSF Convergence Accelerator’s mission is to support transitioning research into tangible solutions that are impactful to society. We’re excited to welcome the ARTT team into Phase II and assist them on their journey.”

“We want to create a resource that offers practical help to the many citizens who are doing the hard work of sharing reliable information to their communities, every day. This is why throughout the Phase II process we’ll be working with members of online communities, local health communicators, and educators who have so deeply inspired our work to design a tool that meets their needs. Their success is our success,” said PI Sehat.

The ARTT Guide tool is planned to be available for public release in August 2024. In the lead up to this, the ARTT team will work with partners who will help test the tool, starting May 2023. After that, partner feedback will be incorporated to help refine the ARTT Guide tool, while additional outside feedback will be solicited to assess the tool for any cybersecurity issues.

Media contact:

Connie Moon Sehat

Principal Investigator, ARTT

Contact: artt@hackshackers.com

Author bio:

The Analysis and Response Toolkit for Trust or ARTT is focused on helping people engage in trust-building ways when discussing vaccine efficacy and other topics online.

Our central tool, the ARTT Guide, will provide insights into points of analysis and response during conversations around complicated discussions such as vaccines and vaccinations.

Conversations, especially trusted ones, take both reliable information and creative skill. We know that people in the middle of discussions are faced with different contexts, challenges, and needs. Our toolkit shows different possibilities for these conversations.