MozFest 2021: Using stories to combat fake news with Project Immerse

Hayley Walker, Learning, Inclusion and Service Development Manager for Blackburn with Darwen library service, explains how MozFest 2021's deep fake virtual experience has helped her better understand how to spot misinformation.

Mind is blown! I was a little late to the party so missed some key instructions, but the buzz of the breakout room, and the relationships that were very quickly built with other participants, led me on the most fascinating journey into AI. I initially felt like we needed more direction or instructions, as everyone appeared a little lost at first. However, upon the conclusion of the event, it was made clear why that was the case and the uncertainty added to the intensity and excitement of the whole experience. 

Project Immerse was a deep fake virtual experience which was essentially a very complex escape room challenge. It included some film and voice recordings which you had to listen to/watch while trying to complete a puzzle. However, the puzzle pieces included some information that was not relevant to the story and we therefore had to work together to figure out the fact from the misleading information. Additionally, the AI being used “cloned” the accounts of the participants and this also meant that some information was incorrect. The project leaders then would move you into different break out rooms, based on your level of skill and (I think!) how close you were to solving the puzzle. 

It quickly became clear that the target of the mission was to work out what MR was and what the vaccine was. But jeez… it was so hard! All of us working together was so much fun and I genuinely felt that with more time, friendships could easily be formed. Discussing our theories on what MR was demonstrated how easy it is to be led into forming beliefs and theories based on information other people were sharing, rather than having faith in your own beliefs and ideas. It was a keen insight into how this can happen on a wider scale and become a “virus” i.e. misinformation and conspiracies. 

Getting to ask questions live of the hosts was fun and being involved in such a project was great – it has definitely ignited a passion in me to take part in similar things in future! Thank you MozFest for the opportunity!