The Computational Propaganda Project

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

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Project Description

Our mission is to increase civic engagement and solve public problems using social data science.  Since 2012, we have been pioneering the social science of fake news and investigating the use of algorithms, automation and computational propaganda in public life. Political actors are manipulating public opinion over major social networking applications.

Our project enables a new team of social and information scientists to investigate the production and consumption of automated scripts and junk news. We study both the bot scripts and the people making such bots, and then work with computer scientists to improve the way we catch and stop such bots. Experience suggests that political bots are most likely to appear during an international crisis, and are usually designed to promote the interests of a government in trouble. Political actors have used bots to manipulate conversations, demobilize opposition, and generate false support by manipulating social networks.

Our research involves international fieldwork with the political consultants and computer experts who are commissioned to make bots. We are building an original database of political incidents involving bots. Finally, we are using this knowledge to make better tools for detecting political bots when they appear and advise both social media firms and public agencies on how to respond to manipulation.

We are doing “real-time” social and information science, and actively disseminating their findings to journalists, industry, and foreign policy experts. By developing an a network of experts in political bot detection and an original data set, we will not only have a better understanding of how bots are manipulating social networks but also advance the conversation in the social sciences, computer sciences, and industry about the size of the problem and the possible solutions.

The project has support from public science agencies and foundations that support researchers who investigate public issues and engage with journalists, civil society groups, policy makers and the interested public.  You are welcome to see the range of activities we undertake and support we receive.