The Search Barometer – A tool to understand search engine vulnerabilities ahead of the EP elections

Grantee: Transatlantic Foundation (Belgium) / Grant: €54,917
  • Priority Area Boosting Fact-checking Activities in Europe
  • Funding Round / Action Types 6th Funding Round – Urgent Actions
  • Year 2024
  • Country Belgium
  • Project Status Ongoing

As the de facto gateway to the vast troves of information available online, search engines play a critical role in the modern information ecosystem. Yet to date, most of the research on information threats has focused on social media. This has left a blind spot in our collective efforts to understand the specific narratives and sources that require fact-checks and other interventions.

This project aims to address that knowledge gap by creating a tool to systematically capture and visualize search results on queries related to critical issues ahead of the 2024 EU parliamentary elections. The objective is to provide European fact-checkers and other information integrity practitioners with a near-real time look at the sources and content being shown to users across Europe when people search for topics ranging from the war in Ukraine to migration, inflation, and Euroscepticism. This will give us (and the wider fact-checking community) a barometer to assess if election-related topics are being weaponized and, more importantly, if those weaponized narratives are deserving of a fact-check based on their prominence in search results.

To accomplish these goals, this project will have four main activities. First, we will scope key terms and concepts that are likely to be targets of information manipulation campaigns before the EU elections. Next, we will build a data visualization tool to ingest and visualize daily search results generated by selected key terms on major search engines. We will then conduct a virtual training on the tool for European fact-checking partner organizations and other CSOs working on information integrity issues. Finally, we will produce briefs during the project period to highlight risks identified by our research. The goal is not only to provide our own analyses of search vulnerabilities, but also to improve the analyses of fact-checking organizations across Europe, thus improving our collective information defenses ahead of the election.

Updated on 15 march 2024

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