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Combating Misinformation: What HLT Can (and Can't) Do When Words Don't Say What They Mean

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Published in:
Human Language Technology Conference (HLTCon), 16-18 March 2021.

Summary

Misinformation, disinformation, and “fake news” have been used as a means of influence for millennia, but the proliferation of the internet and social media in the 21st century has enabled nefarious campaigns to achieve unprecedented scale, speed, precision, and effectiveness. In the past few years, there has been significant recognition of the threats posed by malign influence operations to geopolitical relations, democratic institutions and processes, public health and safety, and more. At the same time, the digitization of communication offers tremendous opportunities for human language technologies (HLT) to observe, interpret, and understand this publicly available content. The ability to infer intent and impact, however, remains much more elusive.
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Summary

Misinformation, disinformation, and “fake news” have been used as a means of influence for millennia, but the proliferation of the internet and social media in the 21st century has enabled nefarious campaigns to achieve unprecedented scale, speed, precision, and effectiveness. In the past few years, there has been significant recognition...

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Prototype and analytics for discovery and exploitation of threat networks on social media

Published in:
2019 European Intelligence and Security Informatics Conference, EISIC, 26-27 November 2019.

Summary

Identifying and profiling threat actors are high priority tasks for a number of governmental organizations. These threat actors may operate actively, using the Internet to promote propaganda, recruit new members, or exert command and control over their networks. Alternatively, threat actors may operate passively, demonstrating operational security awareness online while using their Internet presence to gather information they need to pose an offline physical threat. This paper presents a flexible new prototype system that allows analysts to automatically detect, monitor and characterize threat actors and their networks using publicly available information. The proposed prototype system fills a need in the intelligence community for a capability to automate manual construction and analysis of online threat networks. Leveraging graph sampling approaches, we perform targeted data collection of extremist social media accounts and their networks. We design and incorporate new algorithms for role classification and radicalization detection using insights from social science literature of extremism. Additionally, we develop and implement analytics to facilitate monitoring the dynamic social networks over time. The prototype also incorporates several novel machine learning algorithms for threat actor discovery and characterization, such as classification of user posts into discourse categories, user post summaries and gender prediction.
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Summary

Identifying and profiling threat actors are high priority tasks for a number of governmental organizations. These threat actors may operate actively, using the Internet to promote propaganda, recruit new members, or exert command and control over their networks. Alternatively, threat actors may operate passively, demonstrating operational security awareness online while...

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Influence estimation on social media networks using causal inference

Published in:
Proc. IEEE Statistical Signal Processing (SSP) Workshop, 10-13 June 2018.

Summary

Estimating influence on social media networks is an important practical and theoretical problem, especially because this new medium is widely exploited as a platform for disinformation and propaganda. This paper introduces a novel approach to influence estimation on social media networks and applies it to the real-world problem of characterizing active influence operations on Twitter during the 2017 French presidential elections. The new influence estimation approach attributes impact by accounting for narrative propagation over the network using a network causal inference framework applied to data arising from graph sampling and filtering. This causal framework infers the difference in outcome as a function of exposure, in contrast to existing approaches that attribute impact to activity volume or topological features, which do not explicitly measure nor necessarily indicate actual network influence. Cramér-Rao estimation bounds are derived for parameter estimation as a step in the causal analysis, and used to achieve geometrical insight on the causal inference problem. The ability to infer high causal influence is demonstrated on real-world social media accounts that are later independently confirmed to be either directly affiliated or correlated with foreign influence operations using evidence supplied by the U.S. Congress and journalistic reports.
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Summary

Estimating influence on social media networks is an important practical and theoretical problem, especially because this new medium is widely exploited as a platform for disinformation and propaganda. This paper introduces a novel approach to influence estimation on social media networks and applies it to the real-world problem of characterizing...

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