The first thematic MediaRoad event was organized on 2 March 2018 in Geneva as part of the EBU Big Data Week. The conference focused on how the media sector could take advantage of the latest innovations. The conference was organized by the EPFL, a major European research institution, with the full support of the MediaRoad project, a Horizon 2020-funded initiative to create a European media ecosystem for innovation.

The “Media Innovation in the age of AI, social media and fake news” conference gathered representatives of academia, research, broadcasters, and business who looked at the use of data and artificial intelligence for media content, as well as on the current rise of fake news on social media and on the web in general. Moreover, the event gave participants networking opportunities to strengthen collaboration between the media industry and the academic world.

During the opening session, Nicola Frank, Head of European Affairs at EBU, and Dr Hans Hoffmann, Head of Unit on Media Fundamentals and Production Technology at EBU Technology and Innovation, presented the current technological and policy context as well as overall goals of the MediaRoad project, underliningthe need to strengthen an innovative media ecosystem in Europe. They also pointed out the cohesive and political role that MediaRoad should play for the European media industry and community to avoid fragmentation, advocating for a Media innovation scheme within the European Research Agenda beyond 2020.

The first panel was dedicated to the web and more specifically to social media and how fake news could be handled. The Vice-President for Education of the EPFL, Prof. Pierre Vandergheynst, presented an analysis of how fake news spread on social media and highlighted the role that automated bots have in amplifying such news. In this context, he also underlined the importance of research and education to sustain future media innovation.

“It is vital to be innovative on – and therefore control! – the content distribution platforms. The alternative is losing control of the data we produce, surrendering it to corporations and becoming unable to control how information is used in the public sphere”, said Vandergheynst.

Julia Bayer, a social media journalist working for Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, presented a tool called “Truly Media”, an online platform to verify news in a collaborative manner. Steve El-Sharawy, from the company EzyInsights, also presented a news gathering tool for publishers and journalists and showed a few analyses of specific fake news in the recent past.

Bob West, Professor at the School of Computer and Communication Sciences at EPFL, highlighted the difference between misinformation and disinformation and showed what some of the deliberately fabricated information on Wikipedia looks like. Deepak Tewari, from the startup Privately, then presented an application that allows makes social media safer for children.

The afternoon session was dedicated to data and artificial intelligence (AI). David Clevinger, Senior Director at IBM Watson Media, presented how AI is already being used in a plethora of media applications, for example for the automated subtitling of videos. Mathieu Fivaz from the Kudelski Group then made a strong case for a new business model for European media stakeholders based on an automatic exchange of information in order to strengthen their offers.

Alain Dufaux, Director of the MetaMedia Center at EPFL, presented the Montreux Jazz Digital Project, a unique partnership between the Claude Nobs Foundation, the Montreux Jazz Festival. The project aims to archive and make all concerts festival available in different formats. Michael O’Sullivan, from an EPFL startup nViso, showed some impressive technologies that are able to decipher universal emotions by interpreting facial expressions. Last but not least, Jean-Sébastien Merieux, from another EPFL startup Dartfish, presented video solutions to enable users to view, edit and analyze videos for individual and corporate use.

Taken together, the conference gathered an interdisciplinary blend of media stakeholders ranging from applied scientists to entrepreneurs with concrete solutions to media organizations and broadcasters. It was a dynamic event, where many issues could be discussed in a lively manner, and created great networking opportunities across classical boundaries and countries.

Please find the conference materials here, including presentations.

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