Q atar Foundation established Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) in 2006 as part of its ongoing commitment to establish Qatar as a knowledge-based economy. Qatar Foundation views research as essential to national and regional growth; as the means to diversify the nation’s economy, enhance educational offerings and develop areas that affect the community, such as health and environment. 

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أنشأت مؤسسة قطر الصندوق القطري لرعاية البحث العلمي عام 2006 كجزء من التزامها المستمر بإقامة الاقتصاد القائم على المعرفة في دولة قطر. وتولي مؤسسة قطر للبحوث أهمية قصوى استنادًا إلى دورها الحيوي في تحقيق النمو سواء داخل قطر أو على الصعيد الإقليمي، وكونها وسيلة لتنويع اقتصاد البلاد، وتعزيز الفرص التعليمية، وتطوير المجالات المؤثرة في المجتمع كالصحة والبيئة.

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Friday, March 31, 2023 7:14 PM Doha Time

Fighting an Infodemic during a Pandemic

Fighting an Infodemic during a Pandemic

QNRF-funded project busts fake news about COVID-19 on social media

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a range of challenges, including that of managing the information, or rather misinformation, which is spreading faster than the virus itself. During a catastrophe, it is very challenging to manage, analyse, and disseminate information in such a way that public health and safety is not compromised.
The importance of this phenomenon can be judged by the fact that the Director General of the World Health Organization has said that, “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic.” Spreading of misinformation and rumors, especially during times like these, is not something new. However, with the modern-day communication tools and digital technology that are at our disposal, potentially dangerous information is spreading across societies at such a speed that it is difficult to control it.
This threat of misinformation is present in the Middle East too, as being home to some of the world’s largest youth populations, social media usage is rising rapidly with every passing day. Hence, for younger generations, popular social networking sites have replaced the older, more traditional modes of accessing information, including television broadcasts and newspapers. With countless streams of information being uploaded on these sites in real time every day, it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor and ensure the authenticity and reliability of the information shared. During a pandemic, misinformation on sensitive issues can have disastrous consequences.
To probe this issue further and provide a potential solution, a research team led by Dr. Tamer Elsayed, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Qatar University, is working on a research project titled, “Early Detection of Fake News over Arabic Social Media” funded under QNRF’s flagship National Priorities Research Program (NPRP ID: NPRP11S-1204-170060).
As one outcome of this project, the team successfully produced the first Arabic COVID-19 Twitter dataset titled, “ArCOV-19,” to detect fake news, misinformation, and rumors surrounding COVID-19. This is the first publicly available Arabic Twitter dataset covering the COVID-19 pandemic and is designed to enable research under several domains, including natural language processing, information retrieval, and social computing, among others. ArCOV-19 has already captured about 150 rumors that were propagated in the Arab world about COVID-19 up to April, along with their propagation networks, including retweets and conversational threads.
According to Dr. Elsayed, their project aims to develop the first automated system for early detection of fake news over Arabic social media before it gets widely propagated. The system will be able to detect rumors on a given topic, which will then be automatically verified by leveraging social signals in addition to evidence on social media and the web. For the rumors that are potentially false, the project aims to analyze their propagation patterns and identify the key influencers behind them.




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