The Computational Propaganda Project

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Computational Propaganda and Political Big Data: Moving Toward a More Critical Research Agenda

Computational propaganda has recently exploded into public consciousness. The U.S. presidential campaign of 2016 was marred by evidence, which continues to emerge, of targeted political propaganda and the use of bots to distribute political messages on social media. This computational propaganda is both a social and technical phenomenon. Technical knowledge is necessary to work with…

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Perspective: Should We Regulate Digital Platforms?

I invited Phil Howard and Gillian Bolsover in November of 2016 to guest edit this special issue of Big Data on ‘‘Computational Propaganda.’’ I am delighted at the collection of academic papers that they have curated on the subject, which is front and center at the moment. Politicians, journalists, and scholars grapple with how and…

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Social Bots: Human-Like by Means of Human Control?

Abstract: Social bots are currently regarded an influential but also somewhat mysterious factor in public discourse and opinion making. They are considered to be capable of massively distributing propaganda in social and online media, and their application is even suspected to be partly responsible for recent election results. Astonishingly, the term social bot is not well…

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Japan’s 2014 General Election: Political Bots, Right-Wing Internet Activism, and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s Hidden Nationalist Agenda

Abstract: In this article, we present results on the identification and behavioral analysis of social bots in a sample of 542,584 Tweets, collected before and after Japan’s 2014 general election. Typical forms of bot activity include massive Retweeting and repeated posting of (nearly) the same message, sometimes used in combination. We focus on the second method…

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Detecting Bots on Russian Political Twitter

Abstract: Automated and semiautomated Twitter accounts, bots, have recently gained significant public attention due to their potential interference in the political realm. In this study, we develop a methodology for detecting bots on Twitter using an ensemble of classifiers and apply it to study bot activity within political discussions in the Russian Twittersphere. We focus on…

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Improving Predictive Accuracy in Elections

Abstract: The problem of accurately predicting vote counts in elections is considered in this article. Typically, small-sample polls are used to estimate or predict election outcomes. In this study, a machine-learning hybrid approach is proposed. This approach utilizes multiple sets of static data sources, such as voter registration data, and dynamic data sources, such as polls…

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Harvesting Social Signals to Inform Peace Processes Implementation and Monitoring

Abstract: Peace processes are complex, protracted, and contentious involving significant bargaining and compromising among various societal and political stakeholders. In civil war terminations, it is pertinent to measure the pulse of the nation to ensure that the peace process is responsive to citizens’ concerns. Social media yields tremendous power as a tool for dialogue, debate, organization,…

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Fake News: A Technological Approach to Proving the Origins of Content, Using Blockchains

Abstract: In this article, we introduce a prototype of an innovative technology for proving the origins of captured digital media. In an era of fake news, when someone shows us a video or picture of some event, how can we trust its authenticity? It seems that the public no longer believe that traditional media is…

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Call for Papers: Special Issue on Computational Propaganda and Political Big Data

We are pleased to announce a special issue of the journal Big Data dedicated to computational propaganda. This special issue is guest edited by project members Professor Phil Howard and Gillian Bolsover. The deadline for submission is 1 June, 2017 for publication in December 2017. Computational propaganda—the use of information technologies for political purposes—is on…

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Social Media, Civic Engagement, and the Slactivism Hypothesis: Lessons from Mexico’s “El Bronco

Does social media use have a positive or negative impact on civic engagement? The cynical “slacktivism hypothesis” holds that if citizens use social media for political conversation, those conversations will be fleeting and vapid. Most attempts to answer this question involve public opinion data from the United States, so we offer an examination o f…

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