CCI Researchers Meet to Discuss How Cybersecurity Can Combat Misinformation and Disinformation
October 18, 2021
With misinformation and disinformation campaigns in full swing worldwide, Virginia researchers from multiple disciplines and across the state met for the first time this month to discuss ongoing Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI)-funded research and build the groundwork to pursue future collaborations and large-scale projects.
“Mis/disinformation has always existed, but what has changed is its pervasiveness, speed, and the extent and variety of communication channels available to spread it,” said Karen A. Roberto, University Distinguished Professor and executive director of the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment at Virginia Tech. “Collective expertise from multiple fields is required to address the complexity of this growing problem.”
CCI researchers from such fields as computer science, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, engineering, and other disciplines are collaborating to identify and resolve the social and technical challenges associated with the spread of mis/disinformation by integrating innovative uses of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) tools and concepts, Roberto added.
The workshop on the Role of Cybersecurity on Curbing the Spread of Disinformation and Misinformation was held at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science's Link Lab. CCI-funded researchers from George Mason University, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Virginia participated.
Jennifer West, dean of engineering and applied science at the University of Virginia, kicked off the workshop. The researchers discussed their current research funded by CCI this summer as a springboard for additional collaborations.
CCI Executive Director Luiz DaSilva encouraged the two dozen Virginia researchers to think big about future projects in what is sure to be an expanding field of study. “I think we have the collective expertise that can really make us stand out,” he said.
The CCI-funded multidisciplinary teams are unraveling what makes misinformation and disinformation campaigns tick and how cybersecurity and AI tools can slow them down. Misinformation can be as simple as people misunderstanding bad information but sharing it anyway, while disinformation is a deliberate attempt to spread harmful information.
Researchers are working on seven separate projects, including projects designed to help local, state, and federal authorities fight misinformation and disinformation campaigns, minimize the damage of fake news by using AI tools, build human trust in autonomous vehicle systems, study what makes conversations effective to show how they can morph into disinformation campaigns, and more.