Posted on / by Jonas Wolf

Artificial intelligence needs journalistic intuition

06.12.2023 – Author: Moritz Demmig (rbb)

The news-polygraph conference “The cat and mouse game of information verification” was not only a complete success and rewarding for all guests, but also inspired and advanced us as a research alliance. Synergies emerged from research and journalistic expertise, from a hands-on mentality and a workshop perspective. Social discussions and academic presentations on the topic of disinformation and how journalism can combat it complemented each other throughout the day.

On 23.11.23, 9.30 a.m., the time had come: the specialist conference on disinformation and verification technologies organised by our alliance under the direction of rbb started in front of expectant visitors in the small broadcasting hall of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg. More than 200 people registered for the all-day hybrid event both on site and online. Journalists, media professionals and media decision-makers as well as experts from science and research gathered to discuss, network and exchange ideas in the field of verification technologies and combating disinformation.

“It’s about the basis, about democracy”

Ulrike Demmer, Director General of rbb, gave the opening speech, getting straight to the point: “It’s about the basis, about democracy. Informed citizens need authentic information, reliable sources and verified facts and this is where the key role of public service broadcasting lies. I am glad that we are able to join this alliance; we must continue to maintain our quality standards in the future.”


Photo: Ulrike Demmer holds the opening speech © rbb/Gundula Krause

This was followed by an inspiring keynote speech by Stefan Voß, verification and fact-checking expert at Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa), entitled “Deceptively real? – Verification in the age of AI”. Here in particular, it became clear that journalistic instinct cannot be replaced by technology. Voss became even clearer when he explained that news-relevant disinformation in social media should be taken more seriously and that more needs to be invested in improving the expertise of editorial teams.

The rest of the morning was dedicated to introducing news-polygraph in all its facets. We not only reported on the fundamental aims of the research project. Rather, our experts explained the complex AI solution approaches in vivid detail. Text, image, audio and video verification were discussed as well as new types of collaborative work in the form of crowd integration. Patrick Aichroth (Fraunhofer IDMT) pointed out in his presentation that he expects humans will soon no longer be able to act as detectors. According to him, the content generated with the help of AI will be too realistic to be detected by human senses. For the scientist, however, there is no contradiction to comprehensive and necessary journalistic research.


Examples from practice

After an intensive exchange and opportunities to develop ideas together during the lunch break, the afternoon programme started with presentations by experts from verification and media practice. We welcomed Lynn Khellaf, data scientist and developer at DW Innovation, Jana Heigl, fact-checker at BR24 #Faktenfuchs, Georg Heil, editor-in-chief of ARD-Kontraste and Dr Eva Flecken, Director of Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg. This was followed by an inspiring and enlightening mix of practical examples of investigative journalism and aspects of media law work using the example of the MABB.

The stimulating day concluded with a panel discussion between the external speakers and our Alliance colleague Vera Schmitt (TU Berlin). Humour, problem awareness and clear-sightedness enriched the lively exchange on the difficulties and opportunities of verification and combating disinformation from different perspectives.


Photo: Our panellists: (from left to right): Georg Heil, Dr Eva Flecken, Jana Heigl, Stefan Voß, Vera Schmitt and Konrad Spremberg (rbb moderator of the event) © rbb/Gundula Krause

More pictures of the event: