How Science Can Fight A 'Social Media War'

Aug 12, 2019

On today's program: Social science and artificial intelligence are combining to fight disinformation on social media; how volunteerism creates community in the South Side; the Democratic ticket for the 18th Congressional district takes on gun control; and PWSA prepares to bring the Highland Park reservoir back online.

Can human-led AI stop bots, trolls and state-sponsored propaganda?
(0:00 — 13:35)

Carnegie Mellon University launched a new research center this summer dedicated to studying disinformation and its effects on democracy.

The Center for Informed Democracy and Social Cybersecurity (IDeaS) will study how disinformation—incorrect information intentionally shared—is spread through online channels like social media. Kathleen M. Carley, a professor in the School of Computer Science's Institute for Software Research at CMU, will lead a multidisciplinary team exploring how technology and human behavior combine to create and disseminate falsehoods on a mass scale.

"It is not the province of any one ethnic group or any one ideology, or any one political persuasion," Carley tells The Confluence's Megan Harris. "It’s just something that is part of the human race, (and) in part, it’s a way that people look at the world when they want to compete.”

The center, which is funded by a $5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will have three main objectives: expand existing research, educate journalists and policymakers, and build community among the more than 2,000 people already working in the field.

From a hub for mills to a hub for nightlife
(14:13 
— 17:52)

A group of volunteers wants to recreate the tight-knit community of South Side's past. 90.5 WESA’s Brian Cook spoke to members of the South Side Community Council about their work to preserve the neighborhood’s history while providing for its future.

Primary challenger says Doyle isn't progressive enough
(17:52 — 22:47)

This spring, University of Pittsburgh law professor Jerry Dickinson announced a campaign to challenge veteran Democrat Mike Doyle in next year's primary for the 18th Congressional District. Since then, Dickinson has raised over $100,000. Although much of that from outside the area, politicos are taking note of his bid. Dickinson spoke with 90.5 WESA's Chris Potter about why he's running, why voters should look for a change in leadership and how growing up in a foster home alongside 10 other children shaped his politics. 

Doyle says he "would go a lot, lot further” than current gun control proposals 
(22:47 — 30:42)

In the wake of the mast shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, there have been renewed calls from both sides of the aisle for gun control legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s willing to discuss the options when the Senate returns from its August recess, but he didn't promise any votes. 

WESA's Lucy Perkins spoke to Rep. Doyle, the incumbent Democrat, who supports sweeping reform. He says he’s frustrated with Senate Republicans, including Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey. Toomey has said there isn't enough Senate support to pass his previously proposed background check legislation. 

A woman peers over the railing to the Highland 1 Reservoir in Highland Park, which has been open to walkers during repairs.
Credit Will Pickering / PWSA

Highland Park Reservoir to reopen by the end of August
(30:42 — 38:55)

An open reservoir that serves more than half of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers will be back on line by the end of August, officials say. Highland 1 is unusual because it is uncovered, something residents have long fought to preserve. To keep it open and meet state and federal regulations, security will be heightened, prompting a temporary walking path restriction through the spring. PWSA will also install cameras, restrict vehicle access and repair a low perimeter wall to keep most animals from wading in. 

PWSA spokesperson Will Pickering says the average customer won't notice the difference.

"These are sort of the things that happen behind the scenes," he says, "that we don't want our customers to have to worry about."

90.5 WESA's Tom Hurley, Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.