Nitin Agarwal, an Indian American professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was selected to join the U.S. Program to Fight Foreign Propaganda.
According to a press release, Agarwal and his team of researchers is one of 14 groups nationwide to participate in the program, which is organized by the Global Engagement Center that is charged with leading the U.S. government’s efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation from international terrorist organizations and foreign countries and during the next six months, the teams will be invited to present their research to U.S. State Department officials.
Agarwal is the Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair and distinguished professor of information science and leads the Collaboratorium for Social Media and Behavioral Studies at UA Little Rock.
His team will showcase technologies like Blogtrackers and YouTube trackers, applications that track information providers and narratives as misinformation is disseminated through social media networks including blogs, YouTube, and Twitter.
The research is the result of projects supported by millions of dollars in federal grants, according to the university.
“The younger generations consume information more by viewing than reading, so they are becoming susceptible to disinformation that is prevalent on video-based social media platforms. The key to the success of programs like Blogtrackers and YouTube trackers is developing efficient algorithms that can quickly sift through massive amounts of social media data, but also target the right signals,” Agarwal said in a statement.
“There are often two main motivations for using YouTube. One motivation is monetization. People can make a lot of money off of YouTube, so they want their content displayed in as many places as possible. The second motivation is manipulation. There are also malicious or adversarial actors who eventually want to steer your thinking toward a specific agenda. Once you know the intent of the users, we can pick up the right signals to acquire relevant data,” he continued.
“Algorithmic warfare is becoming an increasingly hot topic as companies like Google, Twitter, and YouTube have realized that the algorithms they use to search and recommend content to their users are susceptible to manipulation by outside forces,” Agarwal added.