Misinformation Speaker Series 2020-21

Young Mie Kim

Young-Mie-Kim

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Professor of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a Faculty Affiliate of the Department of Political Science

Complete bio and more information here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020
11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT
Virtual – Registration Required

TALK TITLE: Follow the Ad: Uncovering Election Interference behind Data-Driven Digital Platforms

ABSTRACT: Election interference raises grave normative concerns. Unfortunately, due to conceptual and methodological challenges, little scientific knowledge has been generated about election interference. This talk discusses the mechanisms by which election interference occurred and the extent to which it influenced the electorate. The talk presents Kim’s research on covert digital campaigns by unidentifiable, unattributable groups ahead of the 2016 US elections. Kim’s analysis is based on large-scale political ad data that her team, Project DATA (Digital Ad Tracking & Analysis), collected independently from tech platforms by utilizing a user-based, real-time, ad-tracking tool and “reverse engineering” techniques. Kim’s research uncovers the prevalence of foreign and domestic “suspicious” groups (i.e., unidentifiable, unattributable, untraceable groups that do not leave any public footprint) and their targeting, messaging, and organizational strategies and tactics (e.g., voter suppression and asymmetric [de]mobilization). Furthermore, it reveals the structure of covert coordination that facilitated the deep penetration of election interference campaigns into the electorate. The talk offers insight into regulatory policies and discusses the implications for the functioning of democracy.

BIO: Young Mie Kim, an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, is a Professor of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a Faculty Affiliate of the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kim’s research concerns data-driven, algorithm-based, digitally mediated political communication. Her recent research project, Project DATA (Digital Ad Tracking & Analysis), empirically investigates the sponsors, content, and targets of digital political campaigns across multiple platforms with a user-based, real-time, ad tracking tool that reverse engineers the algorithms of political campaigns. Kim’s research, “The Stealth Media? Groups and Targets behind Divisive Issue Campaigns on Facebook,” identified “suspicious groups,” including Russian groups on Facebook. The work received the Kaid-Sanders Best Article of the Year in Political Communication (2018) awarded by the International Communication Association. Kim testified at the Federal Election Commission‘s hearings on the rulemaking of internet communication disclaimers and presented Congressional briefings on election interference on social media. Her research on Russian election interference in the US presidential election was cited by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Kim spoke at the European Parliament on her research on data-driven political advertising and inequality in political involvement.

Part of the speaker series on misinformation, co-sponsored by the NULab at Northeastern University.

Natalie Jomini Stroud

TaliaStroud

The University of Texas at Austin

Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the School of Journalism, as well as the founding and current Director of the Center for Media Engagement in the Moody College of Communication

Bio and more information here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020
11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT
Virtual – Registration Required

TALK TITLE: Reducing Misperceptions Via Social Media

ABSTRACT: Social media platforms have struggled to address misinformation circulating on their platforms. It seems unlikely that they will be able to rid these digital spaces of misinformation altogether, which means that there is a need to provide corrective information. This talk will review research on reducing misperceptions via social media. In particular, the talk will emphasize the need to think about attention and identity. In a crowded social media environment, those wishing to correct misperceptions must find ways to do so that gain attention and promote recall. Further, messages are more readily believed when they cohere with existing beliefs. Successfully countering misinformation requires figuring out ways to overcome ideological attachments. Stroud’s research, in collaboration with researchers at the Center for Media Engagement, Facebook, fact-checking organizations, and the Poynter Institute, demonstrates that the content of corrective information can influence the extent to which people pay attention to and recall fact-checks, as well as what people ultimately believe.

BIO: Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud is the Dealey Professor of Business Journalism and a professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the School of Journalism and Media, as well as the founding and current Director of the Center for Media Engagement in the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin. She is a Distinguished Research Fellow with the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Stroud’s research on the media’s democratic role has received numerous national and international awards, including the International Communication Association (ICA)’s Outstanding Book Award in 2012 for her book Niche News: The Politics of News Choice, the inaugural Public Engagement Award from the Journalism Studies Division of the ICA in 2019, the 2016 Bill Eadie Distinguished Award for a Scholarly Article from the National Communication Association (NCA), the 2019 and 2011 Michael Pfau Outstanding Article Awards from NCA, and the 2020 Walter Lippmann Best Published Article Award from the American Political Science Association. Stroud serves on the editorial boards of seven academic journals and the advisory boards of SciLine, a part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Social Science Research Council’s Media & Democracy Initiative.

Part of the speaker series on misinformation, co-sponsored by the NULab at Northeastern University.

Registration for this event is required, details on how to join the webinar will be sent to registered participants before the event. Register here.

 

Jacob N. Shapiro

Jake Shapiro

Princeton University

Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and Director of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project

Complete bio and more information here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020
11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT
Virtual – Registration Required

TALK TITLE: Organizing Online Foreign Influence Efforts: Lessons from Topic Models and Content-Based Detection

ABSTRACT: Since 2014 there have been at least 74 nation-state led online influence campaigns targeting other countries through deceptive social media, with 21 of those in 2019 alone. How are such foreign influence efforts organized, what sets their content apart from legitimate social media activity, and what have we learned about their potential impact? Much as statistical forensics help illuminate the political economy of corruption, application of machine-learning to tracking influence effort activity reveals underlying facts about how different countries execute such campaigns and suggest a wide range of possibilities for creating broader public awareness of how external powers are seeking to covertly shape domestic political discussions.

BIO: Jacob N. Shapiro is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and directs the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project, a multi-university consortium that compiles and analyzes micro-level data on politically motivated violence in countries around the world. His research covers conflict, economic development, misinformation, and security policy. He is author of The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations and co-author of Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict. His research has been published in broad range of academic and policy journals as well as a number of edited volumes. He has conducted field research and large-scale policy evaluations in Afghanistan, Colombia, India, and Pakistan. Shapiro received the 2016 Karl Deutsch Award from the International Studies Association, given to a scholar younger than 40, or within 10 years of earning a Ph.D., who has made the most significant contribution to the study of international relations. Ph.D. Political Science, M.A. Economics, Stanford University. B.A. Political Science, University of Michigan. Shapiro was previously President and Chief Scientist of Giant Oak, a venture-funded software company. He is a veteran of the United States Navy.

Part of the speaker series on misinformation, co-sponsored by the NULab at Northeastern University.

Registration for this event is required, details on how to join the webinar will be sent to registered participants before the event. Register here.

Shanto Iyengar

Shanto Iyengar

Stanford University

William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies

Complete bio and more information here.

Thursday, March 4, 202`
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT
Virtual – Registration Required

TALK TITLE: Misinformation as Motivated Reasoning: Experimental Evidence

ABSTRACT: 

There are competing accounts for the partisan divisions occurring throughout American life.  One is that they are genuine divides due to a strengthened sense of partisan identity. The other is that they reflect partisan cheerleading—insincere support for the “home team” when there is little cost to doing so. We assess the applicability of these claims to political misinformation in the post-Trump era.  We test between these alternatives with experiments that offer incentives for correct survey responses and allow respondents to search for information before answering each question. We find that partisan cheerleading inflates informational divides modestly and incentives have no impact on partisan divides in information search.

In a follow-up study, we apply this research design to investigate beliefs about the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that partisan factual disagreements on COVID-19 resemble those on other political issues. Contrary to the cheerleading account, the level of disagreement is unaffected when we impose a financial cost for knowingly providing incorrect answers. We further find only weak evidence that the health risks posed by the pandemic attenuate these divides. While partisan differences in factual knowledge become smaller among people who express personal concern about becoming infected, partisan divides are larger among the elderly, a group especially at risk.

Overall, our findings suggest that partisan motivated reasoning guides factual beliefs about a major public health crisis just as much as beliefs about less personally consequential issues. This result is surprising in that partisanship appears to override information processing based on the protection of personal well-being, even survival.

You can find the paper referenced in this talk here.

BIO: Shanto Iyengar is the William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies at Stanford University.  He has served as Co-Principal Investigator of the American National Election Study since 2014.  His areas of interest include party polarization and mass communication.  He is the author or co-author of Media Politics: A Citizen’s Guide (Norton, 2015); News That Matters (University of Chicago Press, 1987, 2010), Is Anyone Responsible? (University of Chicago Press, 1991), Explorations in Political Psychology (Duke University Press, 1995), and Going Negative (Free Press, 1995).

Part of the speaker series on misinformation, co-sponsored by the NULab at Northeastern University.

Registration for this event is required, details on how to join the webinar will be sent to registered participants before the event. Register here.

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Jennifer Pan

Jennifer Pan

Stanford University

Assistant Professor of Communication, and an Assistant Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science and Sociology

Complete bio and more information here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021
11:30 am - 12:30 pm EDT
Virtual – Registration Required

TALK TITLE: A Study of Confucius Institute Teachers Around the World

ABSTRACT: Confucius Institutes sponsored by the Chinese government have become the world’s largest government-funded culture and language promotion program. With 540 institutes operating at the university level and 1,154 centers in primary and secondary schools in over 160 countries, Confucius Institute teachers interact with hundreds of thousands of students around the world each year. Since their founding in 2004, Confucius Institutes have been accused of extending Chinese government censorship and propaganda, indoctrinating young people into a view of China and the Chinese Communist Party that the Chinese regime wants to advance. In this paper, we use interviews, a global survey, and experimental methods to study the behavior of Confucius Institute teachers. In particular, we focus on how teachers deal with politically contentious topics in the classroom, and importantly, what factors motivate their behavior.

BIO: Jennifer Pan is an Assistant Professor of Communication, and an Assistant Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science and Sociology at Stanford University. Her research resides at the intersection of political communication and authoritarian politics, showing how authoritarian governments work to shape public attitudes and behaviors, how the public responds, and when and why each is successful. Pan graduated from Princeton University, summa cum laude, with an A.B. in Public and International Affairs, and she received her Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Department of Government.

Part of the speaker series on misinformation, co-sponsored by the NULab at Northeastern University.

Registration for this event is required, details on how to join the webinar will be sent to registered participants before the event. Register here.

Watch the full event here:

Dannagal G. Young

Epistemic Motivations, Political Identity, and Misperceptions about COVID and the 2020 Election

University of Delaware

Professor of Communication and Political Science and International Relations

Complete bio and more information here.

Thursday, April 22, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT
Virtual – Registration Required

TALK TITLE: Epistemic Motivations, Political Identity, and Misperceptions about COVID and the 2020 Election

ABSTRACT: 

Dannagal G. Young and Erin Maloney

While misperceptions about COVID and the 2020 election are attributable to various informational, political, and psychological factors, this project explores the intersection of two specific factors as they relate to misperceptions in the context of health and politics:  political identity and epistemic motivations. How we tend to make sense of our worlds – through intuition-based and/or evidence-based processes – has important implications for our susceptibility to mis and disinformation (Garrett & Weeks, 2017; Swami et al., 2014). Evidence from political psychology suggests that these styles of meaning -making are increasingly tied to political identity, with social and cultural conservatives more likely to value intuition and liberals more motivated to engage in reflective thought (Deppe et al., 2015; Oliver & Wood, 2018). The current project integrates these bodies of research to understand a) whether “Trumpism” (Trump favorability minus Biden favorability) is especially highly correlated with epistemic motivations (greater reliance on intuitive thought and less reflective thought), b) whether epistemic motivations are a significant predictor of misperceptions about both COVID and the 2020 election, and c) whether Trumpism can be conceptualized as the manifestation of a certain combination of epistemic motivations that further encourages misperceptions on the part of Trump’s already-instinct-driven supporters. Preliminary findings from this ongoing research project will be discussed.

BIO: Dannagal G. Young (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, 2007) is a Professor of Communication and Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware where she studies the content, audience, and effects of non-traditional political information. She has authored over forty academic articles and book chapters exploring themes related to political entertainment, media psychology, public opinion, and misinformationShe is also a dedicated public scholar, with appearances on CNN, MSNBC, and PBS and having written for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Vox. Her 2019 book “Irony and Outrage examines satire and outrage as the logical extensions of the respective psychological profiles of liberals and conservatives (Oxford University Press, 2020). Dr. Young’s current book project (with JHU Press) explores how identity fuels misinformation and how our socially sorted political media ecosystem reinforces these patterns. Young was awarded the University of Delaware’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014 and is a TED Speaker.

Part of the speaker series on misinformation, co-sponsored by the NULab at Northeastern University.

Registration for this event is required, details on how to join the webinar will be sent to registered participants before the event. Register here.

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Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

University of Oxford

Professor of Political Communication; Director, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Complete bio and more information here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021
10:30 am - 11:30 am EDT
Virtual – Registration Required

TALK TITLE: TBD

ABSTRACT: TBD

BIO: TBD

Part of the speaker series on misinformation, co-sponsored by the NULab at Northeastern University.