Team Deeptector.io Photo by Nate Brown | copyright: 2020 - Curators of the University of Missouri

The winner of the Missouri School of Journalism’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute student innovation competition, Team Deeptector, has advanced to the world finals in Microsoft’s 2020 Imagine Cup. The Imagine Cup aims to empower student developers to create innovative and inclusive projects that tackle pressing global and societal issues.

The team, from the University of Missouri, is comprised of graduate student Caleb Heinzmann, computer science, of Crystal River, Florida; senior Ashlyn O’Hara, data journalism, of Chula Vista, California; graduate student Kolton Speer, computer science of Gretna, Nebraska and graduate student Imad Toubal, computer science, of Algeria.

Their web-based tool, Deeptector.io, allows users to simply drag and drop a video file, or YouTube link, into their cloud-based system and the content is then fed through a deep learning algorithm that has been trained to detect differences between fake and real media content. The algorithm then produces a prediction for users.

“We are incredibly proud of these students and all they have accomplished,” said Kat Duncan, interim Director of Innovation at RJI and organizer of the RJI student innovation competition. “We are sure their advancing to the Imagine Cup is just one of many milestones for this team and the future of their deepfake program Deeptector.io, and hope it continues to be a success and aid newsrooms and their communities all over the country.”

The MU team (O’Hara is no longer an active member of the team but occasionally collaborates with them) first was selected out of hundreds of Americas submissions, as one of ten regional finalist teams to virtually showcase their innovation to a panel of judges. That event culminated in Team Deeptector to be selected to now compete in the World Finals against ten other teams for a grand prize of $100,000 and a 30-minute mentoring session with the CEO of Microsoft.

“Winning the RJI competition has given us the chance to try to turn this project into a business, so we have actively been working on that for the past couple of months,” Heinzman said.

He said the Deeptector.io team traveled to the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), a data journalism conference, where they talked to investigative reporters and learned about the field of journalism. Heinzman said the team wants to talk to more journalists to get a true understanding of the problem of “deep fake” videos and to feel comfortable their target customers will be journalists and news organizations.

“All of our winnings from this competition are going to Deeptector to help turn it into a business,” Heinzman said. “We will be filing for an LLC and we will be working with Mizzou’s legal clinic to learn more about this process.”

You can follow the journeys of the world finalists on  Instagram and  Twitter  as they prepare for the 2020 World Championship.



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