AI & Social Manipulation
Networks have dramatically changed the way we experience the world. Information access and broadcasting have been revolutionized. The Internet, the Web, and online platforms bring us together: our society is experiencing the effects, both positive and negative, of ubiquitous and unparalleled connectivity. In this talk, I will overview my decade-long journey into understanding the implications of online platforms for our society, democracy, and public health. I'll first focus on online manipulation and illustrate how bots and trolls exacerbate the spread of inaccurate information. Their operations span domains from politics to public health. I'll dive deep into our discovery that bots attempted to manipulate the online conversation about the 2016 US Election. Our work is the only peer-reviewed study of online political interference that appeared before November 8, 2016, and it has informed official government investigations as well as new policies and regulations. These problems are far from being solved, as I will illustrate similar issues with the 2020 U.S. Election, as well as COVID-related chatter. I'll conclude by discussing the tools we developed to understand and combat online misinformation, detect bots and trolls, and characterize their activity, behavior, and strategies, suggesting how they are changing the way researchers and the public study communication networks in the era of automation and artificial intelligence.
Emilio Ferrara is an associate professor of communication and computer science at USC Annenberg and at the USC Viterbi Department of Computer Science, and Director of the Annenberg Networks Network (ANN) center and co-director of the Machine Intelligence and Data Science (MINDS) center. His research focus has been at the intersection between developing theory and methods in network science and applying them to study socio-technical systems and information networks. He is concerned with understanding the implications of technology and communication networks on human behavior, and their effects on society at large. His work spans from studying the web and social networks, to collaboration systems and academic networks, from team science to online crowds. Ferrara has published more than 150 articles on social networks, machine learning and network science that have appeared on venues like the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences and Communications of the ACM. His research is supported by DARPA, IARPA, the Air Force and the Office of Naval Research. More at http://emilio.ferrara.name
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