WIN project

Fake News and Collective Decision Making – Rapid Automated Assessment of Media Bias

Project duration:

Project Consortium:
University of Zurich (CH)
University of Konstanz (DE)
University of Göttingen (DE)


Project Description:
The project was funded by the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, the academy of sciences of the state of Baden-Württemberg as part of the WIN-Kolleg program. From January 2022 to December 2023, Dr. Felix Hamborg took over as the project lead and Prof. Bela Gipp and myself were associated researchers on the project after leading it for the previous three years. The project aimed to provide insights into how slanted news media coverage impacts public debates and, in turn, affects collective decision making.

News may be subtly biased through specific word choices or framing, intentional omissions or misrepresentation of specific details. In the most extreme cases, fake news may present entirely fabricated facts to intentionally manipulate public opinion towards a given topic. A rich diversity of opinions is desirable but systematically biased information, if not recognized as such, can be problematic as a basis for decision making. Therefore, it is crucial to empower news readers in recognizing relative biases in coverage by providing timely identification of media bias that can be delivered together with the actual news coverage – for example, through a specifically designed news aggregator platform.

This project combined a long tradition of social science research on media bias with state-of-the-art methodology from computer science. The first part of the project centered around achieving rapid automated assessment of news media bias from a more technical, computer science point of view. The second, social science part of the project then was concerned with systematically studying how information about (relative) bias in the news could then be disseminated to enable – rather than to hinder – consensus formation and, in turn, collective decision making.