Designing AI Technologies for EU Police Authorities  to Combat Disinformation

KInIT is part of a new Horizon Europe project to equip European Police Authorities with advanced technologies to combat disinformation linked to crime. VIGILANT is a Horizon Europe project aimed at curbing the spread of disinformation and combat its negative effects such as hate speech, human trafficking, and bogus medical cures. The project started on November 1, 2022.

 KInIT participates in a new 36-month, €4 million project that will equip European Police Authorities with advanced technologies from academia to detect and analyse disinformation that leads to criminal activities. The VIGILANT project brings together 17 leading European partners from academia, industry, government and national research centers and five Police Authorities in an interdisciplinary consortium.

 “Resilience against disinformation is needed in Europe, especially in widening countries which are intensively targeted by foreign influence operations. On top of that, these countries often suffer from a long term of lowered trust in public institutions and civil society in general. Projects like VIGILANT can help to balance the current unfavorable technological conditions, which malicious actors are regularly abusing,” said Mária Bieliková, founder of KInIT, about the importance of the project. 

According to Joachim Fassbender of the German Police University, one of VIGILANT’s partners, disinformation poses increasing challenges to police forces and society, especially when it is spread in the scope of a campaign. In times of political, economic and social instability, disinformation is able to discredit state institutions, spread hatred and trigger certain groups of the population to pursue their own political, social or economic objectives in an unlawful way.  The result is a destabilisation of society and state order. It is therefore important to detect and verify disinformation at an early stage and to develop appropriate response options.

Speaking about the project, VIGILANT coordinator and ADAPT researcher at UCD, Professor Brendan Spillane, said: “The VIGILANT project will build an integrated platform of advanced disinformation identification and analysis tools and technologies from academia that will be tailored to Police Authorities’ use cases and needs, following an ethical-by-design approach, to help combat this threat on democracy and societal cohesion.”                                                                            

VIGILANT will help Police Authorities detect and analyse disinformation from all major online sources, in all modalities (text, image, video) and in multiple languages. The platform will also help Police Authorities to detect and investigate hate speech, violent nationalist or separatist movements, radicalization and extremist groups, incels, lone wolves, and other counter terrorism threats.

KInIT’s role in the project is to develop data sourcing functionality and automated analysis of online content. We also participate in the elaboration of an ethical framework for using technology in disinformation-related criminal investigations and the VIGILANT platform.

Jakub Šimko leads the project at KInIT and really appreciates the opportunity to share our local expertise on the subject of disinformation: 

We are glad that the VIGILANT project consortium has a strong Slovak component to it. Along with KInIT, we also have Gerulata Technologies and GLOBSEC on board. Both of these organizations have long disinformation combatting track records. In fact, a lot of original Slovak know-how on creating a healthy infosphere will be transferred to other European countries thanks to this project.

On November 9 – 10 2022, the VIGILANT consortium gathered in Trinity College Dublin for their launch meeting where they held detailed discussions with the five Police Authorities on requirements and discussed the project’s work packages, key deliverables and technical implementation.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Tom Clonan, Irish Senator, security analyst and retired Irish Army Captain said:

“I am delighted to have co-launched the exciting, timely and challenging VIGILANT project. This exemplary European cooperation is an important step towards preserving freedom of speech and expression while striking the delicate balance with disinformation.”

Over the course of the three year project VIGILANT will engage with the public across Europe through open discussion events to showcase the work and also gain valuable feedback. Experts from computer science and ethics will ensure that the highest standards of ethics and personal data protections are met throughout the project. Speaking about Vigilant, Elisa Orru, Associate professor of Philosophy at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg said: “VIGILANT develops powerful tools to support police work. Ethics in VIGILANT aims to ensure that this power is exercised within limits and in a manner that maximizes benefits to individuals, society, and democracy.