Data Craft analyzes how bad actors manipulate metadata to create effective disinformation campaigns and provides tips for researchers and technology companies trying to spot this “data craft.”
report | 10.17.18
Weaponizing the Digital Influence Machine: The Political Perils of Online Ad Tech identifies the technologies, conditions, and tactics that enable today’s digital advertising infrastructure to be weaponized by political and anti-democratic actors.
Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube presents data from approximately 65 political influencers across 81 channels to identify the “Alternative Influence Network (AIN)”; an alternative media system that adopts the techniques of brand influencers to build audiences and “sell” them political ideology.
points | 09.14.18
On September 13th, Data & Society Founder and President danah boyd gave the keynote speech at the Online News Association Conference. Read the transcript of her talk on Points.
“Now, more than ever, we need a press driven by ideals determined to amplify what is most important for enabling an informed citizenry.”
NY Daily News | 07.20.18
For the New York Daily News, Data & Society Media Manipulation Researcher Lead Joan Donovan and Research Analyst Brian Friedberg critique Facebook’s stance on hate speech on their platform.
“Through coordination and exploitation, a vocal minority posits itself as a majority, amplifying their messaging with fake accounts and bots to hide their identities. In his implicit defense of conspiracy content on Facebook, Zuckerberg misunderstands the relationship between words and actions. He suggests that it is impossible to assess intent in online conversation.”
How can we trace the spread of disinformation by tracking metadata? Data & Society Research Affiliate Amelia Acker explains.
“One way of more fully understanding the data craftwork of disinformation on social media platforms is by reading the metadata just as closely as the algorithms do.”
For Points, Data & Society Postdoctoral Scholar Caroline Jack reviews the history of advertising imaginaries.
“The question of what protections ads themselves deserve, and to what degree people deserve to be protected from ads, is ripe for reconsideration.”
In this Medium post, Founder and President danah boyd reflects on the current state of journalism and offers next steps.
“Contemporary propaganda isn’t about convincing someone to believe something, but convincing them to doubt what they think they know.”
How do people decide what to trust? Data & Society Postdoctoral Scholar Francesca Tripodi shares insights from her research into conservative news practices.
“While not all Christians are conservative nor all conservatives religious, there is a clear connection between how the process of scriptural inference trickles down into conservative methods of inquiry. Favoring the original text of the Constitution is closely tied to the practices of ‘constitutional conservatism,’ and currently members in all three branches of the U.S. government rely on practices of scriptural inference to make important political decisions.”
Data & Society President and Founder danah boyd and Media Manipulation Research Lead Joan Donovan challenge newsrooms to practice “strategic silence” to avoid amplifying extremist messaging.
“Editors used to engage in strategic silence – set agendas, omit extremist ideas and manage voices – without knowing they were doing so. Yet the online context has enhanced extremists’ abilities to create controversies, prompting newsrooms to justify covering their spectacles. Because competition for audience is increasingly fierce and financially consequential, longstanding newsroom norms have come undone. We believe that journalists do not rebuild reputation through a race to the bottom. Rather, we think that it’s imperative that newsrooms actively take the high ground and re-embrace strategic silence in order to defy extremists’ platforms for spreading hate.”
The Oxygen of Amplification draws on in-depth interviews by scholar Whitney Phillips to showcase how news media was hijacked from 2016-2018 to amplify the messages of hate groups.
Offering extremely candid comments from mainstream journalists, the report provides a snapshot of an industry caught between the pressure to deliver page views, the impulse to cover manipulators and “trolls,” and the disgust (expressed in interviewees’ own words) of accidentally propagating extremist ideology.
Searching for Alternative Facts is an ethnographic account drawn directly from Dr. Francesca Tripodi’s research within upper-middle class conservative Christian* communities in Virginia in 2017. Dr. Tripodi uses Christian practices of Biblical interpretation as a lens for understanding the relationship between so-called “alternative” or “fake news” sources and contemporary conservative political thought.
primer | 05.11.18
Search plays a unique role in modern online information systems.
Unlike with social media, where users primarily consume algorithmically curated feeds of information, the typical approach to a search engine begins with a query or question in an effort to seek new information.
However, not all search queries are equal. There are many search terms for which the available relevant data is limited, non-existent, or deeply problematic.
We call these “data voids.”
Data Voids: Where Missing Data Can Easily Be Exploited explores different types of data voids; the challenges that search engines face when they encounter queries over spaces where data voids exist; and the ways data voids can be exploited by those with ideological, economic, or political agendas.
Michael Golebiewski, Microsoft Bing
danah boyd, Microsoft Research and Data & Society
Media Manipulation Blog | 04.19.18
For the Media Manipulation Blog, Postdoctoral Scholar Caroline Jack, Researcher Becca Lewis, and Research Assistant Kinjal Dave contemplate “viewpoint diversity.”
“The CEOs’ comments reveal a paradox of democratic values: tolerance of opposing viewpoints is a foundational value of democracy, but tolerating intolerant views can threaten democratic principles of inclusion and equality. And some who adopt this rhetoric — including online influencers like Dave Rubin — have exploited this paradox of democratic values, shifting the goalposts of diversity to delegitimize any inclusion efforts except those that tolerate discriminatory viewpoints.”
How did the far-right co-opt the narrative of the movie Black Panther? Researcher Becca Lewis and Research Analyst Kinjal Dave investigate.
“Beyond direct reactions to the movie itself, many in the far-right have used it as an opportunity to adapt and grow memetic anti-black stereotypes.”
D&S Founder danah boyd and Researcher Robyn Caplan contributed to the book “Trump and the Media,” which examines the role the media played in the election of Donald Trump.
Other contributors include: Mike Ananny, Chris W. Anderson, Rodney Benson, Pablo J. Boczkowski, Michael X. Delli Carpini, Josh Cowls, Susan J. Douglas, Keith N. Hampton, Dave Karpf, Daniel Kreiss, Seth C. Lewis, Zoey Lichtenheld, Andrew L. Mendelson, Gina Neff, Zizi Papacharissi, Katy E. Pearce, Victor Pickard, Sue Robinson, Adrienne Russell, Ralph Schroeder, Michael Schudson, Julia Sonnevend, Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt, Tina Tucker, Fred Turner, Nikki Usher, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Silvio Waisbord, Barbie Zelizer.
Read and/or watch Data & Society Founder and President danah boyd’s keynote talk at SXSW EDU 2018.
“I get that many progressive communities are panicked about conservative media, but we live in a polarized society and I worry about how people judge those they don’t understand or respect. It also seems to me that the narrow version of media literacy that I hear as the “solution” is supposed to magically solve our political divide. It won’t. More importantly, as I’m watching social media and news media get weaponized, I’m deeply concerned that the well-intended interventions I hear people propose will backfire, because I’m fairly certain that the crass versions of critical thinking already have.”
Education Week | 02.22.18
Education Week interviewed Data & Society Media Manipulation Lead Joan Donovan about misinformation spread after the Parkland shooting.
“The problem with amplified speech online is that something like this crisis-actor narrative gets a lot of reach and attention, then the story becomes about that, and not the shooting or what these students are doing. I would suggest that media only mentions these narratives to say that this is wrong and that students need to be believed.”
report | 02.21.18
This report responds to the “fake news” problem by evaluating the successes and failures of recent media literacy efforts while pointing towards next steps for educators, legislators, technologists, and philanthropists.
New Data & Society report clarifies current uses of “fake news” and analyzes four specific strategies for intervention.
What are internet trolls? Above the Noise explains where internet trolls come from in this video and encourages watchers to read Data & Society’s report “Online Harassment, Digital Abuse, and Cyberstalking in America.”
Wired | 12.06.17
Miranda Katz of WIRED interviews D&S founder and president danah boyd on the evolving public discourse around disinformation and how the tech industry can help rebuild American society.
“It’s actually really clear: How do you reknit society? Society is produced by the social connections that are knit together. The stronger those networks, the stronger the society. We have to make a concerted effort to create social ties, social relationships, social networks in the classic sense that allow for strategic bridges across the polis so that people can see themselves as one.”
Is Facebook a platform or a media company? NBC News THINK asks D&S researcher Robyn Caplan to comment on the recent tech hearings.
Facebook thinks of itself as a neutral platform where everyone can come and share ideas…They’re basically saying that they’re the neutral public sphere. That they are the marketplace of ideas, instead of being the marketers of ideas.”
This is a transcript of Data & Society founder and president danah boyd’s recent lightening talk at The People’s Disruption: Platform Co-Ops for Global Challenges.
“But as many of you know, power corrupts. And the same geek masculinities that were once rejuvenating have spiraled out of control. Today, we’re watching as diversity becomes a wedge issue that can be used to radicalize disaffected young men in tech. The gendered nature of tech is getting ugly.”
Mic | 08.16.17
D&S Media Manipulation Research Lead Joan Donovan talks about the role of large tech companies in curbing extremist activity online.
Joan Donovan, a media manipulation research lead at the research institute Data & Society, said it’s well within these companies’ reach to implement changes that will curb white supremacist activity. And it’s something she said major platforms like Facebook and Twitter will have to confront as they acknowledge their role in magnifying hate speech and those who spout it.
‘Richard Spencer might have a megaphone and his own website to communicate his messages of hate,’ Donovan said in a phone interview Wednesday. ‘Now these platforms are realizing they are the megaphone. They are the conduit between him and larger audiences.’
Movements like the so-called ‘alt-right’ aren’t just built on charisma, Donovan added — they’re built on infrastructure. The internet and all of its possibilities has now become a major part of that infrastructure.