Analysis by CNetS researchers of information shared on Twitter during the 2016 U.S. presidential election has found that social bots played a disproportionate role in spreading misinformation online. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed 14 million messages and 400,000 articles shared on Twitter between May 2016 and March 2017 — a period that spans the end of the 2016 presidential primaries and the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Among the findings: A mere 6 percent of Twitter accounts that the study identified as bots were enough to spread 31 percent of the low-credibility information on the network. These accounts were also responsible for 34 percent of all articles shared from low-credibility sources. The study also found that bots played a major role promoting low-credibility content in the first few moments before a story goes viral. Continue reading Twitter bots play disproportionate role spreading misinformation→
Onur Varol, a postdoctoral research associate at Northeastern University who earned his Ph.D. in Informatics from CNetS, has been honored with the University Distinguished Ph.D. Dissertation Award for 2018, which is the highest honor for research Indiana University bestows on its graduate students. “I am extremely happy to receive this award,” Varol said. “I would like to especially thank my advisor, Filippo Menczer, and the Informatics department for nominating me. I was lucky to be surrounded by the best advisors, collaborators, and research group I could imagine during my doctoral studies, and I am a proud IU alumni and a Hoosier.” Varol’s dissertation, “Analyzing Social Big Data to Study Online Discourse and Its Manipulation,” provided insights into analysis of online conversations and mechanisms used for their manipulation. Varol built machine learning frameworks like Botometer to detect social bots. More…
A project from NaN and IUNI was among 20 selected (out of over 800 applications) to address the spread of misinformation with support from the Knight Prototype Fund. Led by Fil Menczer, Giovanni Ciampaglia, Alessandro Flammini and Val Pentchev, the project will integrate the Hoaxy and Botometer tools and uncover attempts to use Internet bots to boost the spread of misinformation and shape public opinion. The tool aims to reveal how this information is generated and broadcasted, how it becomes viral, its overall reach, and how it competes with accurate information for placement on user feeds. The project will be supported by the Democracy Fund, which in March, along with partners Knight Foundation and Rita Allen Foundation, launched an open call for ideas around the question: How might we improve the flow of accurate information? The call sought projects that could be quickly built to respond to the challenges affecting the health of our news ecosystem and ultimately our democracy. The winning projects will receive a share of $1 million through the Knight Prototype Fund, a program focused on human-centered approaches to solving difficult problems.
The deluge of online and offline misinformation is overloading the exchange of ideas upon which democracies depend. Many have argued that echo chambers are increasingly constricting the ability of alternative perspectives to provide a check on one’s viewpoints. Suffering fragmentation and declining public trust, the Fourth Estate struggles to carry out its traditional editorial role distinguishing facts from fiction. Without those safeguards, fake news, conspiracy theories, and deceptive social bots proliferate, facilitating the manipulation of public opinion. Countering misinformation while protecting freedom of speech will require collaboration between stakeholders across industry, journalism, and academia. To foster such collaboration, the Workshop on Digital Misinformation will be held in conjunction with the 2017 International Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM) in Montreal, on May 15, 2017. Continue reading ICWSM 2017 Workshop on Digital Misinformation→
If you get your news from social media, as most Americans do, you are exposed to a daily dose of hoaxes, rumors, conspiracy theories and misleading news. When it’s all mixed in with reliable information from honest sources, the truth can be very hard to discern.
Among the millions of real people tweeting about the presidential race, there are also a lot accounts operated by fake people, or “bots.” Politicians and regular users alike use these accounts to increase their follower bases and push messages. PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports on how CNetS computer scientists can analyze Twitter handles to determine whether or not they are bots.