In June 2017, The Oxford Internet Institute invited members of the news media, policy community, foundations, and civic groups to a closed meeting at Africa House where investigators from the Computational Propaganda Lab at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, presented the latest research about the manipulation of public opinion over social media. This briefing will provide a first look at the Lab’s most recent research findings from a series of country specific case studies and help ground a group conversation about the prospects for improving deliberative democracy.
This case studies series focuses on the spread of computational propaganda in nine countries, including several with recent or upcoming elections: Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and the United States. Each case study involves an investigation of digital misinformation in domestic politics, with particular attention to the role of automated and algorithmic manipulation. You can access the findings here.
About the Project on Computational Propaganda
This large social data science project began conducting research in 2014. It has been ahead of the curve in tracking the impact of bots, fake news, and algorithmic manipulation on democracy. Our evidence base includes big data analysis of Twitter content, network analysis of public Facebook pages, and over 100 interviews with hackers, bot writers, and political operatives around the world. Our work has been driving public conversations about the causes, consequences, and solutions to these problems, with coverage on CBS 60 Minutes, ABC Nightline and in the New York Times. This group briefing will provide an opportunity to ask direct questions about the evidence and trends.
In conversation with the Oxford Internet Institute:
Computational Propaganda Worldwide
Partner, Mishcon de Reya
So we are at Mishcon de Reya, we have the Oxford Internet Institute talking today about their findings on computational propaganda.
It is what we see on a daily basis, it’s the way in which social media and the internet is used, partly by individuals but partly by robots, bots, to influence opinion.
Professor, Oxford Internet Institute
Well we’ve just released nine country case studies from countries around the world and in every single one we found social media being used for some kind of political manipulation. So there’s some questions people are asking about what it means to have good quality information in the days before they need to vote.
Director of Research Computational Propaganda Project, Oxford Internet Institute
The challenges encountering this are manifold, it’s such a large, broad problem, and there’s so much data to be sifted through. Social media companies need to have a stake in responding to this problem on their platforms and it’s a very tricky question for them because they are at the intersection of protecting their users, but also protecting free speech.
Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute
There’s not much in terms of responses and what can be done legally, what can be done through civil society measures. There’s still not that much awareness. There’s still large amounts of the public that are not aware that the information that they are looking at online is not something that they can take as actually effectual information, but it’s something that might be manipulated.
Specialist in Technology and Law
Those of us who are in the legal technology world are always trying to accelerate or actually shorten the gap between the evolution of a piece of technology and our ability to act sensibly from a legislative point of view.
Partner, Mishcon de Reya
Well, I think that lawyers and law firms have an important voice on regulation about how regulation can be most effective where we’ve seen it work and we haven’t seen it work. I think we also have a voice on over regulation and the freedom of speech and making sure that that is preserved, but at the moment I don’t think the balance is right.