“How creative can we get with technology?” – This was the main question we asked ourselves at MindBugs, when we were starting out our journey into the realm of AI and journalism. We are a team of scientists from Romania, eager to fuse technology and art. We came up with MindBugs Discovery, an accessible and visually compelling search engine designed to untangle the spider web of disinformation and establish connections between the threads that form it. For such a tool to be useful, we needed to gain insight from people on the ground – journalists, fact checkers and media professionals who work against disinformation in their communities.

MindBugs Discovery Search engine

We came to the Media Innovation Accelerator program ready to have our eyes opened – since most of us have a technical background, we were not familiar with the work habits and challenges of media professionals. At the bootcamp in Vienna we connected with journalists working in Spain, Austria, the Czech Republic and Norway, among others. Despite their unique geographic settings, they expressed similar concerns and said that It is very time-consuming to track false narratives across regions. Especially because journalists lack tools for structured research and risk missing crucial similarities between narratives emerging in different, often far parts of the globe. The conversations gave us a clear view of what tasks MindBugs Discovery should be able to perform:

  • Show statements of disinformation related to a keyword
  • Direct users to a fact-checking website debunking the statement of disinformation
  • Show all countries where the statement appeared
  • Show a timeline of the statement’s appearance in each country
  • Show all sources that disseminated the statement
  • Show what other pieces of disinformation are related to this statement
Media Innovation Bootcamp, Vienna 2023

The big, often sobering challenge of a passion project like MindBugs Discovery is ensuring its long-term sustainability. Now we had a vision of what to do, but would it survive the initial launch? Here, our accelerator mentors Pavlina Louzenska and Ryan Powell provided immeasurable help and motivation. We were able to sit down with each of them and envision the future of our project. Ryan patiently guided us through the business labyrinth of subscriptions, paywalls and referrals. Pavlina helped us connect with AI experts in the Czech Republic, who have already made steps towards integrating new technology in the fight against disinformation. She provided resources for internal management of our team, as well as insights into how to structure our business model, where to network and how to ensure sustainability, as well as potential growth of MindBugs.

Group photo - Media Innovation Bootcamp, Vienna 2023

We are currently busy perfecting MindBugs Discovery and bringing it to its full capacity – several media professionals we found through IPI’s rich network across Europe already tested out the demo version and gave us feedback on how it could benefit them in their day-to-day work against disinformation. We can’t wait to show you what’s next: features of automatic narrative detection and vibrant, interactive visuals connecting the dots of misinformation – all of which users will be able to download and use in their own research or stories.

We are very grateful for the expertise, insight and scores of warmth we received from mentors and participants of the Accelerator program. Apart from helping our cause, media professionals let us look behind the scenes of the industry and taught us valuable lessons on how they do their work. Strengthened and inspired by our time at IPI’s bootcamp in Vienna, we can’t wait to showcase our work to the media community. We hope to see you at the launch of MindBugs Discovery – make sure to register for early access and never miss news from us.