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Designing Counter-Disinformation Tools to Empower Local Government Agencies

Principal Investigator: 
Hemant Purohit, assistant professor, information sciences and technology, George Mason University

Co-Principal Investigators: 
Antonios Anastasopoulos, assistant professor, computer science, George Mason; Tonya Neaves, principal/managing partner, Delta Point Solutions LLC; Huzefa Rangwala, professor, computer science, George Mason

Project Description: 
During a crisis, government agencies are especially vulnerable to targeted disinformation campaigns on social media. A multidisciplinary team of computing and policy researchers is addressing this challenge through three avenues. First, researchers will create a program to characterize disinformation social media posts and show how these posts are connected and what they have in common. Second, using computation methods that employ state-of-the-art natural language processing and machine learning techniques, they’ll detect multilingual disinformation posts. Finally, researchers will combine the results to create an interactive and predictive modeling tool, which could help discover malicious social media attacks on government policies before they have a chance to take root and spread. The project team will use the disinformation social media posts during the COVID-19 pandemic to test their new method. The application of this research could proactively aid local government agencies in their future emergency and crisis management efforts.