The US Air Force Office of Scientific Research has awarded the grant Algorithmic and theoretical approaches to optimization problems on complex networks to CNetS faculty Filippo Radicchi. The project will study different classes of optimization problems (OPs) on complex networks, including optimal percolation, optimal sampling, optimal navigation, and optimal seeding. The research will address the practical, algorithmic and theoretical aspects of the OPs, focusing on the generalization of the problem settings to realistic scenarios, the development of numerical techniques for the solution of the OPs, and the establishment of analytical baselines for the objective assessment of the performance of the optimization algorithms.
The total budget of the award is 450,000 USD, the project’s duration is three years.
Our latest paper “Neutral bots probe political bias on social media” by Wen Chen, Diogo Pacheco, Kai-Cheng Yang & Fil Menczer just came out in Nature Communications. We find strong evidence of political bias on Twitter, but not as many think: (1) it is conservative rather than liberal bias, and (2) it results from user interactions (and abuse) rather than platform algorithms. We tracked neutral “drifter” bots to probe political biases. In the figure, we see the drifters in yellow and a sample of their friends and followers colored according to political alignment. Large nodes are accounts sharing a lot of low-credibility links.
The Army Research Office has awarded the grant Multilayer network embeddings and applications to real-world problems to CNetS faculty Santo Fortunato and Filippo Radicchi. The project lies at the interface between artificial intelligence and network science and aims at developing embeddings of multilayer networks in vector space. While graph embeddings have become very popular over the past decade, most of the research in this area focuses on the analysis of isolated graphs. However, networks in the real world do not exist in isolation, but they are coupled with other networks. For example in social media, the same person may interact with different individuals depending on the online platform.
CNetS alumnus Mihai Avram is the recipient of the 2020 Indiana University Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award for his work on Hoaxy and Fakey: Tools to Analyze and Mitigate the Spread of Misinformation in Social Media. This award recognizes a “truly outstanding” Master’s thesis based on criteria such as originality, documentation, significance, accuracy, organization, and style. Some of the findings in Mihai’s thesis have recently been published in the paper Exposure to social engagement metrics increases vulnerability to misinformation, in The Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review. Congratulations Mihai!
On 15 September 2020, The Washington Post published an article by Isaac Stanley-Becker titled “Pro-Trump youth group enlists teens in secretive campaign likened to a ‘troll farm,’ prompting rebuke by Facebook and Twitter.” The article reported on a network of accounts run by teenagers in Phoenix, who were coordinated and paid by an affiliate of conservative youth organization Turning Point USA. These accounts posted identical messages amplifying political narratives, including false claims about COVID-19 and electoral fraud. The same campaign was run on Twitter and Facebook, and both platforms suspended some of the accounts following queries from Stanley-Becker. The report was based in part on a preliminary analysis we conducted at the request of The Post. In this brief we provide further details about our analysis.
We are excited to announce the new v.1.3 of BotSlayer, our OSoMe cloud tool that lets journalists, researchers, citizens, & civil society organizations track narratives and detect potentially coordinated inauthentic information networks on Twitter in real-time. Improvements and new features include better stability, a new alert system, a Mac installer, and many additions to the interface. This version is released in time for those who would like to use BotSlayer to monitor #Election2020 manipulation.
CNetS students, postdocs, and faculty members will give 7 regular talks and present 13 posters at NetSci 2020, held online this year due to COVID-19. Regular talks will cover research on many topics including COVID-19, forecasting social contagion of anti-vax ideas, political bias in social media, coordinated manipulation online, the scientific development of nations, hierarchy in faculty hiring networks, and citation cartels in journals.