The University of Florida has awarded $1.25 million to launch the Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology, an initiative that will address declining trust driven, in part, by the manipulation of powerful new technology and social networks.

The Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology (CTMT) will be housed at the UF College of Journalism and Communications (CJC) in partnership with the Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The CTMT, which also will be working with UF’s Informatics Institute and Division of Student Services, will bring together technologists and social scientists—working in areas such as communications, anthropology, psychology, political science and law—to develop creative solutions to restoring trust. The goal is to assemble a core group of at least 100 scholars, graduate students and educators to collaborate with scholars and experts around the world who are also researching and examining the role of trust in a technology-driven world.

“UF is perfectly positioned to take a leadership role on issues of trust and trustworthiness,” said Diane McFarlin, dean of the College of Journalism and Communications.  “The work of virtually every scholar and teaching professional in CJC touches on trust in media. CISE is engaged in developing human-centered AI, machine learning and algorithms that delve into the complexity of trust and integrity.  At Liberal Arts and Science, scholars in a range of disciplines work on analyzing trust and validation through social media networks. The footprint of network expertise at UF is growing every year.”

Several organizations, including Gallup, the Pew Research Center and the Edelman Trust Barometer, have all reported declining levels of trust in American institutions, with trust in media at its lowest ebb since most of these polls began.

CTMT efforts will include:

  • Original research in all areas of trust in media and technology, including focus on such areas as roles of social media, relationship between cognitive and emotional influences, and the relationship between humans and technology. The consortium will also serve as the aggregator of all research in the area.
  • Outreach to the public and media about best practices for media, the role of media literacy, the influence on technology and trust, and more. UF will become an influential voice on historical, current, and future events and issues involving trust in media and technology. The Consortium will also address government and policy as new laws are being written and more government regulation is being considered.
  • Engineers and computer scientists will work with media scholars and social scientists to develop products and systems that may be used in conjunction with existing platforms or as stand-alone products/systems in the areas of trust, verification, data literacy, and more.

Christopher McCarty, associate dean and professor of anthropology at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said, “Researchers in Liberal Arts and Sciences will help determine what factors influence someone to trust a source on social media using both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand how trust emerges from day-to-day interaction. Knowledge of these factors will inform sound public policy that will make social media a powerful and safe platform for personal and business communication.”

UF has committed more than $17 million to fund eight “moonshot” projects as part of its Platform for Life, a new initiative aimed at solving some of society’s most urgent problems while redefining the role of a land-grant university for the 21st Century.

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