Online Manipulation of the US Elections: The First Dozen Years

“Fake news” is a generic term to indicate lies and propaganda presented as news. It is not a new phenomenon. Instead, its novelty lies in the omnipresence of online search and social media technologies. Its potential is in compromising the foundations of Democracy. But how severe is the challenge it presents and what can we learn from the past dozen years of online manipulation during the US elections?

Takis Metaxas will start by reviewing the history of online efforts to influence public opinion and elections through the manipulation of the Web and social media and will present documented cases of successful Google and Twitter misinformation campaigns (“bombs”) since 2004. He will also discuss some technical solutions proposed over the years, including TwitterTrails, which tracks the spreading of rumors on Twitter. He will end by analysing why this problem is hard to solve by technical means alone and how epistemology needs to play an integral part of the solution.

Takis Metaxas is a Professor of Computer Science at Wellesley College, studying online social media, primarily related to the propagation of information and misinformation, prediction of political events, and in developing tools that help users evaluate the trustworthiness of information. In particular, with his Wellesley colleagues and students, he has been studying the problem of propaganda and online misinformation since 2002. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford University's Centre for Technology and Global Affairs.

 

All are welcome. Lunch will be provided at 12.15pm.

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