11:30 am - 1:00 pm
David T. Ellwood Democracy Lab, Rubenstein Bldg., Room 414AB
Speaker series on fake news and misinformation, co-sponsored by the NULab at Northeastern University.
The recent rise of black propaganda and information warfare on social media has attracted strong interest from political communication scholars. Of particular concern is the practice of disinformational sockpuppetry, in which agents of foreign governments (including Russia and Iran) disguise themselves as American citizens on social media and attempt to participate in everyday political conversations. Their goal appears to be to inject turmoil into these conversations and increase polarization between politically attentive citizens. This research contributes to the growing literature on contemporary digital disinformation in two ways. First, we document the efficacy of disinformational sockpuppetry by analyzing 5.2 million tweets produced by a Kremlin-funded disinformation outlet called the Internet Research Agency (IRA). We measure the prevalence and activity of various types of IRA sockpuppet identities and show that some receive disproportionately more attention than others. Second, we demonstrate that these activity levels were largely the result of interactions with authentic social media users rather than communications between IRA agents.
Deen Freelon is an associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research covers two major areas of scholarship: 1) political expression through digital media and 2) data science and computational methods for analyzing large digital datasets. He has authored or co-authored more than 30 journal articles, book chapters and public reports, in addition to co-editing one scholarly book. He has served as principal investigator on grants from the Knight Foundation, the Spencer Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has written research-grade software to calculate intercoder reliability for content analysis (ReCal), analyze large-scale network data from social media (TSM), and collect data from Facebook (fb_scrape_public). He formerly taught at American University in Washington, D.C.