AoIR’s YouTube Channel and Travel Scholarships

We are happy to announce the newest AoIR social media platform – YouTube! Subscribe to our YouTube channel get first access to our videos.

 

As we approach the holiday season, a time of great generosity, we want to show you a video interview with one of #AoIR2016’s Travel Scholarship Award attendees – Chung-hong Chan, University of Hong Kong. Your past generosity enabled his conference attendance.

AoIR needs you to help scholars like Mr. Chan attend our conferences and benefit from our community. Please take a moment and click the donate link. Any amount helps!

Reminder: The Call for Proposals for #AoIR2017 is here.


If you are interested in sharing a video with us that is Creative Commons licensed about all things related to the Internet, please send us a brief description as well as a link to the content ac @ aoir dot  org OR prez @ aoir dot org.

 

Posted in Community, Conferences, Publications, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

Three ways Facebook could reduce fake news without resorting to censorship

Three ways Facebook could reduce fake news without resorting to censorship
(republished with permission from The Conversation.)

Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Syracuse University

The public gets a lot of its news and information from Facebook. Some of it is fake. That presents a problem for the site’s users, and for the company itself.

Facebook cofounder and chairman Mark Zuckerberg said the company will find ways to address the problem, though he didn’t acknowledge its severity. And without apparent irony, he made this announcement in a Facebook post surrounded – at least for some viewers – by fake news items.

Other technology-first companies with similar power over how the public informs itself, such as Google, have worked hard over the years to demote low-quality information in their search results. But Facebook has not made similar moves to help users.

What could Facebook do to meet its social obligation to sort fact from fiction for the 70 percent of internet users who access Facebook? If the site is increasingly where people are getting their news, what could the company do without taking up the mantle of being a final arbiter of truth? My work as a professor of information studies suggests there are at least three options.

Facebook’s role

Facebook says it is a technology company, not a media company. The company’s primary motive is profit, rather than a loftier goal like producing high-quality information to help the public act knowledgeably in the world.

Nevertheless, posts on the site, and the surrounding conversations both online and off, are increasingly involved with our public discourse and the nation’s political agenda. As a result, the corporation has a social obligation to use its technology to advance the common good.

Discerning truth from falsehood, however, can be daunting. Facebook is not alone in raising concerns about its ability – and that of other tech companies – to judge the quality of news. The director of FactCheck.org, a nonprofit fact-checking group based at the University of Pennsylvania, told Bloomberg News that many claims and stories aren’t entirely false. Many have kernels of truth, even if they are very misleadingly phrased. So what can Facebook really do?

Option 1: Nudging

One option Facebook could adopt involves using existing lists identifying prescreened reliable and fake-news sites. The site could then alert those who want to share a troublesome article that its source is questionable.

One developer, for example, has created an extension to the Chrome browser that indicates when a website you’re looking at might be fake. (He calls it the “B.S. Detector.”) In a 36-hour hackathon, a group of college students created a similar Chrome browser extension that indicates whether the website the article comes from is on a list of verified reliable sites, or is instead unverified.

These extensions present their alerts while people are scrolling through their newsfeeds. At present, neither of these works directly as part of Facebook. Integrating them would provide a more seamless experience, and would make the service available to all Facebook users, beyond just those who installed one of the extensions on their own computer.

The company could also use the information the extensions generate – or their source material – to warn users before they share unreliable information. In the world of software design, this is known as a “nudge.” The warning system monitors user behavior and notifies people or gives them some feedback to help alter their actions when using the software.

This has been done before, for other purposes. For example, colleagues of mine here at Syracuse University built a nudging application that monitors what Facebook users are writing in a new post. It pops up a notification if the content they are writing is something they might regret, such as an angry message with swear words.

The beauty of nudges is the gentle but effective way they remind people about behavior to help them then change that behavior. Studies that have tested the use of nudges to improve healthy behavior, for example, find that people are more likely to change their diet and exercise based on gentle reminders and recommendations. Nudges can be effective because they give people control while also giving them useful information. Ultimately the recipient of the nudge still decides whether to use the feedback provided. Nudges don’t feel coercive; instead, they’re potentially empowering.

Option 2: Crowdsourcing

Facebook could also use the power of crowdsourcing to help evaluate news sources and indicate when news that is being shared has been evaluated and rated. One important challenge with fake news is that it plays to how our brains are wired. We have mental shortcuts, called cognitive biases, that help us make decisions when we don’t have quite enough information (we never do), or quite enough time (we never do). Generally these shortcuts work well for us as we make decisions on everything from which route to drive to work to what car to buy But, occasionally, they fail us. Falling for fake news is one of those instances.

This can happen to anyone – even me. In the primary season, I was following a Twitter hashtag on which then-primary candidate Donald Trump tweeted. A message appeared that I found sort of shocking. I retweeted it with a comment mocking its offensiveness. A day later, I realized that the tweet was from a parody account that looked identical to Trump’s Twitter handle name, but had one letter changed.

I missed it because I had fallen for confirmation bias – the tendency to overlook some information because it runs counter to my expectations, predictions or hunches. In this case, I had disregarded that little voice that told me this particular tweet was a little too over the top for Trump, because I believed he was capable of producing messages even more inappropriate. Fake news preys on us the same way.

Another problem with fake news is that it can travel much farther than any correction that might come afterwards. This is similar to the challenges that have always faced newsrooms when they have reported erroneous information. Although they publish corrections, often the people originally exposed to the misinformation never see the update, and therefore don’t know what they read earlier is wrong. Moreover, people tend to hold on to the first information they encounter; corrections can even backfire by repeating wrong information and reinforcing the error in readers’ minds.

If people evaluated information as they read it and shared those ratings, the truth scores, like the nudges, could be part of the Facebook application. That could help users decide for themselves whether to read, share or simply ignore. One challenge with crowdsourcing is that people can game these systems to try and drive biased outcomes. But, the beauty of crowdsourcing is that the crowd can also rate the raters, just as happens on Reddit or with Amazon’s reviews, to reduce the effects and weight of troublemakers.

Option 3: Algorithmic social distance

The third way that Facebook could help would be to reduce the algorithmic bias that presently exists in Facebook. The site primarily shows posts from those with whom you have engaged on Facebook. In other words, the Facebook algorithm creates what some have called a filter bubble, an online news phenomenon that has concerned scholars for decades now. If you are exposed only to people with ideas that are like your own, it leads to political polarization: Liberals get even more extreme in their liberalism, and conservatives get more conservative.

The filter bubble creates an “echo chamber,” where similar ideas bounce around endlessly, but new information has a hard time finding its way in. This is a problem when the echo chamber blocks out corrective or fact-checking information.

If Facebook were to open up more news to come into a person’s newsfeed from a random set of people in their social network, it would increase the chances that new information, alternative information and contradictory information would flow within that network. The average number of friends in a Facebook user’s network is 338. Although many of us have friends and family who share our values and beliefs, we also have acquaintances and strangers who are part of our Facebook network who have diametrically opposed views. If Facebook’s algorithms brought more of those views into our networks, the filter bubble would be more porous.

All of these options are well within the capabilities of the engineers and researchers at Facebook. They would empower users to make better decisions about the information they choose to read and to share with their social networks. As a leading platform for information dissemination and a generator of social and political culture through talk and information sharing, Facebook need not be the ultimate arbiter of truth. But it can use the power of its social networks to help users gauge the value of items amid the stream of content they face.

The Conversation

Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Professor of Information Studies, Syracuse University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump and why emotion triumphs over fact when everyone is the media

Trump and why emotion triumphs over fact when everyone is the media
(republished with permission from The Conversation)

Alfred Hermida, University of British Columbia

The playwright Arthur Miller mused in 1961: “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.” The assertion seems oddly quaint now – at a time when the US elected a president who was continually at odds with the press. Donald Trump intentionally positioned himself as an outsider of the established institutions of democratic deliberation.

Trump bypassed the media to connect directly with his supporters, while simultaneously benefiting from the media to spread his message. Supporters and opponents became the media themselves, spreading and amplifying subjective and emotional affective news – news designed to provoke passion, not inform.

The triumph of Trump signals the contested nature of the media due to tectonic shifts in the mechanisms and pathways for news. The once privileged position of media organisations as the primary gatekeepers of news flows to the public has been undermined by the industry’s economic woes, the emergence of digital information merchants, shifting audience practices and the spread of social media platforms.

The ability to decide “all the news that’s fit to print” is shared now between traditional and new media outlets, activist groups, celebrities, citizens and computer code. News exists in a contested, chaotic and circular environment where emotion often overrides evidence, fuelling the rise of polarised, passionate and personalised streams of information.

As newsrooms across “Middle America” are hollowed out, most new digital media outlets are concentrated along the blue-tinged coasts of east and west. The result is a media that only sees a wide swath of US voters from 35,000 feet, as it flies overhead from one coast to the other. These voters did not see themselves reflected in the mainstream media and instead identified with Trump’s outsider message of defiance.

The loss of influence is even more apparent given the high number of newspapers that endorsed Hillary Clinton. Endorsements do not define the outcome but can help to build momentum behind a candidate.

Clouds of dust

The waning authority of newspapers is unsurprising given that no more than 3% of Americans named local and national print outlets as the most helpful source for election news. News websites fared slightly better, cited by 13%. Instead, cable news and social media emerged as the two “most helpful” sources of election news. Arguably, they were also the worst.

Cable news is a misnomer. These networks are not in the business of evidence-based reporting. They are in the emotion business. And emotion sells. Ratcheting up anger and outrage on cable makes business sense. Trump’s fiery and obnoxious rhetoric was a ratings bonanza, spurring a growth in viewership for the first time in three years and, with it, rising revenues. Viewers tune into the channel that mirrors their personal political leanings, as audiences gravitate towards media that reflects and reinforces their biases and beliefs.

Note: In 2015, Nielsen provided Pew Research Center with weighted annual averages for each network starting with 2007. Weighted averages better account for slight differences in the number of programming hours in each broadcast month.
Source: Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen Media Research data, used under license.

Pew Research Center, CC BY-SA

Social media offers a space for voters to find, support and share facts, falsehoods or feelings. The impact of Facebook is remarkable given that more than 40% of Americans get their news from the social media behemoth. Facebook doesn’t just bring together audiences for the news. It shapes the news for audiences, drawn from the choices of their social connections and regurgitated by algorithms to match personal preferences. It is a space designed to envelop users in the cosy embrace of the familiar, not challenge misinformed views or address unsubstantiated rumours.

Fake news: this never happened but plenty thought it did.
Snopes.com

Conspiracy theories about politics flourish on social media, where the currency is virality not truth. People will share false information if it fits their view of the world. Even if some don’t quite believe it, they will share an article with the aim of entertaining, exciting or enraging friends and acquaintances. Fake news spreads so fast that potentially hundreds of thousands of people could have seen it by the time it gets debunked. Facebook was criticised for failing to stem the rise of fake news before the election results came in, with even Barack Obama talking about a “dust cloud of nonsense”.

Frenzied groundswell

When everyone can be the media, both left and right sought to be the media. Sometimes it was through the use of automated propaganda bots on Twitter. One study found bots were behind 50-55% of Clinton’s Twitter activity. That’s nothing compared to the 80% for Trump. Such frenzied tweeting is intended to create the impression of a groundswell of public opinion.

At other times, it was engaged publics who took to social media to craft their own election narrative. For example, Clinton supporters appropriated the #nastywoman hashtag to show their support for a female candidate. Trump supporters took to #repeal19, the amendment that gave women the right to vote.

Such a media diet of affective news designed to stir up passions, feed prejudices and polarise publics is a far cry from the practices of institutional journalism. Reporting is kept separate from opinion and commentary. Facts are prized, with emotion finding its place in features, rather than the news. Looking back, facts never stood a chance.

Beyond the weaknesses and failings of the news industry, in a smackdown between emotion and evidence, emotion always wins. Audiences swim in a media blend of tumbling facts, comment, experience and emotion, resulting in a news cocktail tailored to individual tastes.

The Conversation

Alfred Hermida, Associate professor, Graduate School of Journalism, University of British Columbia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Posted in Uncategorized

Travel Scholarship Recipient – Suwana

Each year, through the generous donations of AoIR conference attendees, we are able to fund several travel scholarships for junior scholars to attend the conference. We want to recognize our scholarship recipients and share with you a little bit about them and their interests.

suwanaheadshotFiona Suwana

 

Who are you?
Fiona Suwana (@fionasuwana)

Where are you from?
I am from Indonesia but now, I am doing postgraduate study in Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

What is your current area of study?
My current area of study is civic engagement, democracy,digital activism, digital media, digital media literacy, digital methods, Indonesia, political participation, and young people.

Describe the research you will present at AoIR 2016.
My research title is Digital Media and Indonesian Young People: Building Sustainable Democratic Institutions and Practices. I am interested in doing research on digital media and democracy for my PhD, so this research focuses on the motivation, capacities, and barriers to Indonesian youth using digital media to support civic engagement and political participation in Indonesia. While, Indonesian young activists and university students have different preferences for digital platforms and digital content to undertake online civic engagement and political participation, but they have similar barriers to it. Those findings can be useful not only for Indonesia, but also for other countries that still have problems with democratic practices and institutions.

Have you presented at AoIR in the past? If yes, what has been your experience? If #AoIR2016 Berlin is your first AoIR conference, what made you choose this conference?
#AoIR2016 Berlin is my first AoIR Conference. I choose AoIR because this conference is one of the top associations in my research field, so attending and participating in the AoIR 2016 is a precious opportunity for me to share my research and receive useful feedback from the participants. Also, this conference would give me the chance to connect with international researchers from Asia, Europe and the US and to get another perspective on democratic development with the support of the digital media. I believe that if I participate and attend the AoIR 2016, I will be able to engage with other Internet researchers and discuss my experiences of digital activism and digital media used by Indonesian young people to support and maintain democracy in Indonesia. Moreover, I can get inspiration and do some networking to continue my research collaboration at the global level. Therefore, the AoIR 2016 conference will support me in my research journey and networks.

Posted in Awards, Conferences Tagged with: , ,

Travel Scholarship Recipient – Pruchniewska

Each year, through the generous donations of AoIR conference attendees, we are able to fund several travel scholarships for junior scholars to attend the conference. We want to recognize our scholarship recipients and share with you a little bit about them and their interests.

PruchniewskaHeadshotUrszula Pruchniewska

Who are you?

Urszula Pruchniewska (@urszie on twitter)

Where are you from?

I currently live in Philadelphia, USA, but I’m Polish by birth and grew up in South Africa and New Zealand.

What is your current area of study?

Gender, digital media, cultural production/labor.

Describe the research you will present at AoIR 2016.

At AoIR 2016, I will be presenting “Production Politics: Gender, Feminism, and Social Media Labor,” a paper I collaborated on with Dr. Brooke Erin Duffy (Cornell University). For this project, we interviewed female entrepreneurs and cultural producers about their experiences using social media for career promotion. We identify a series of tensions that structure how women working online articulate their experiences.  Our findings map onto a tension between feminist politics and post-feminist sentiment—one that has been rendered all the more salient by social media’s injunction to “put yourself out there.”

Have you presented at AoIR in the past? If yes, what has been your experience? If #AoIR2016 Berlin is your first AoIR conference, what made you choose this conference?

I have not presented at AoIR in the past, but I am very excited to take part in AoIR2016 Berlin. Mentors and peers have repeatedly recommended this conference to me, describing it as an event that boasts a supportive community of international scholars and that showcases innovative research in the fields in which I am interested.

Posted in Awards, Conferences Tagged with: ,

2016 Best Student Paper Award

The Best Student Paper Award goes to Paula Kiel for her paper The emerging practices of the collective afterlife: multimodal analysis of websites for post-mortem digital interaction. The program committee was particularly impressed by the contribution’s strong theoretical grounding, the novelty of its object, and its overall relevance to the field of internet research.

The paper will be presented in Berlin at #AoIR2016 07 Oct 2016: 4:00pm-5:30m. Conference schedule information. 

Posted in Awards, Conferences Tagged with: , ,

Travel Scholarship Recipient – Rossini

Each year, through the generous donations of AoIR conference attendees, we are able to fund several travel scholarships for junior scholars to attend the conference. We want to recognize our scholarship recipients and share with you a little bit about them and their interests.

RossiniPatrícia Rossini

Who are you?

Patrícia Rossini (@patyrossini on twitter)

Where are you from?

Brazil. I’m currently based in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais State.

What is your current area of study?

I am a PhD Candidate at the Communication Department of the Philosophy and Human Sciences School at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Broadly speaking, I am studying the interplay between political communication and technologies. My research focuses on online political talk, social networking sites, online campaigns, deliberation and political participation. Specifically, my dissertation aims at understanding how different discussion platforms such as social networking sites and news websites enable, constrain or shape the ways
people discuss political news online.

Describe the research you will present at AoIR 2016.

The paper that I will be presenting at AoIR 2016, ” Social Media, U.S. Presidential Campaigns, and Public Opinion Polls: Disentangling Effects,”  is the product of a collective effort around a broader research agenda about digital campaigns in the U.S. This paper, specifically, looks at the interplay between public opinion polls and candidate’s campaign strategies on social media platforms. We analyze Facebook and Twitter messages of the 17 Republican and 7 Democratic candidates in the 2016 Presidential Primaries. Because social media is an important site of communication for campaigns, we seek to understand the influence of a candidate’s standing in the polls and strategic communication online. Prior research suggests that polls influence strategic communication on TV ads and suggest that competitiveness is a key factor for negative advertising. As campaigns tend to mirror what they do online and offline, we predict that a candidate’s standing in the race will shape the ways he or she communicates with the public. [PS-07: Politics: Social Media, U.S. Presidential Campaigns, and Public Opinion Polls: Disentangling Effects 6 Oct, 11:00 – 12:30]

Have you presented at AoIR in the past? If yes, what has been your experience? If #AoIR2016 Berlin is your first AoIR conference, what made you choose this conference?

#AoIR2016 will be my first AoIR conference. I have been following the event for quite a while and I am really looking forward to participate in Berlin. I wanted to attend to AoIR for two main reasons. First, I follow the work of several scholars who are regularly attending to the conference and it is, in my opinion, the best event of the field. Second, AoIR has a tradition of hosting workshops and activities targeted at young scholars and it represents an important venue not only to make professional relationships, but also to benefit from the knowledge of relevant scholars who are kind enough to mentor scholars who are beginning their careers in academia.

Posted in Awards, Conferences Tagged with: ,

Travel Scholarship Recipient – Cheong

Each year, through the generous donations of AoIR conference attendees, we are able to fund several travel scholarships for junior scholars to attend the conference. We want to recognize our scholarship recipients and share with you a little bit about them and their interests.

Cheong-headshotNiki Cheong

Who are you?

I’m Niki Cheong (@nikicheong on Twitter), a PhD researcher at The University of Nottingham, UK.

Where are you from?

I am originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but currently based in Nottingham, UK.

What is your current area of study?

I am currently researching for a PhD in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies.

Describe the research you will present at AoIR 2016.

At #AoIR2016, I will be participating in the Doctoral Colloquium. I am hoping to learn from the senior researchers and fellow participants, as well as to get some feedback on my current research.

Presently, I am about to begin the second year of my PhD programme, looking at social media communication in Malaysia’s political sphere. Specifically, I am looking at the possible practices of astroturfing involving political parties in Malaysia. I am working with data which includes emails and tweets, in an attempt to understand better how the Government and political parties in Malaysia use social media to propagate their messages and defend themselves from criticism.

Have you presented at AoIR in the past? If yes, what has been your experience? If #AoIR2016 Berlin is your first AoIR conference, what made you choose this conference?

#AoIR2016 will be my first AoIR conference. I am excited to have been offered a spot at the Doctoral Colloquium and am looking forward to enriching my knowledge from the many panels and talks at the main conference, but also to hopefully meet the many researchers who are working in the same field as I am.

I have been following AoIR since I was reading for my BA Internet Studies at Curtin University in Australia in 2000, under the supervision of former AoIR president Professor Matthew Allen. As an undergraduate student back then, I was not able to attend any of the early conferences.

Returning to academia after a decade-career in journalism has now given me the opportunity to attend and participate in AoIR after all these years. It’s been a long time coming and I’m grateful for the Travel Scholarship that has made this trip possible!

Posted in Awards, Conferences Tagged with: ,

Travel Scholarship Recipient – Chan

Each year, through the generous donations of AoIR conference attendees, we are able to fund several travel scholarships for junior scholars to attend the conference. We want to recognize our scholarship recipients and share with you a little bit about them and their interests.

ChanheadshotChung-hong Chan

Who are you?

Chung-hong Chan (@chainsawriot on github and twitter)

Where are you from?

I am from Hong Kong, so I usually introduce myself as “Hong Kong’s Hong”. I am a fourth year PhD student at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre, the University of Hong Kong (@JMSCHKU). So, I also like to introduce myself as “Hong Kong U’s Hong”.

What is your current area of study?

My PhD research is mainly focus on the political consequences of Cyberbalkanization. I am also interested in studying Internet Censorship in China.

Describe the research you will present at AoIR 2016.

I will present a study entitled “Can Online Rumour Be A Social Good In An Authoritarian State? A Case Study Of Rumour On Sina Weibo After The 2015 Tianjin Blasts”, which is a collaborative study between Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and HKU. We study the use of Sina Weibo (a Chinese domestic equivalent of Twitter) for the discussion of rumours about the 2015 Tianjin blasts and how the authority in China attempted to manage those rumours using content moderation strategies. Using a data driven study design, we found that the authority manage topic of rumours differently and there are three broad strategies: 1) “let it be”; 2) rumour rebuttals and 3) rumour rebuttals plus content censorship. With time series analysis, we found no evidence on these management strategy can consistently curb the public discussion of rumours and instead stimulate more general discussion about them. This study fills the research gap on how the social media are used during crisis in authoritarian regime and study the effectiveness of content moderation strategies such as rumour rebuttals and censorship in term of curbing public discussion about rumours. [PA-13: Lies Researching Misleading Information Within Hybrid Media Ecologies. Where We are and Where We are Going 7 Oct 9:00 – 10:30]

Have you presented at AoIR in the past? If yes, what has been your experience? If #AoIR2016 Berlin is your first AoIR conference, what made you choose this conference?

This is my first AoIR conference. From what I know, AoIR is the best Internet Studies conference.

Posted in Awards, Conferences Tagged with: ,

Announcing: AoIR Conference Coordinator

MHALEYAs AoIR continues to grow, we realized a dedicated AoIR Conference Coordinator would help immensely with conference organization and management. AoIR is very happy to announce the hiring of Dr. Michael Haley to fill this role for the #AoIR2017 Tartu Conference.

Michael Haley (Ph.D., Alliant University, 1979) was recently Executive Director of the International Communication Association. As Executive Director of ICA, his primary foci was on increasing the visibility and international scope of the organization, increasing participation of the organization with related organizations and governmental agencies, increasing granting and funding opportunities for the membership of the International Communication Association, and advancing technology within the association. He has also served as Executive Director of both the California Psychological Association and the California Psychological Association Foundation. Michael has a twenty five year history of involvement in public policy debates and initiatives at both national and international levels. He has taught in university settings at is co-author of public policy research articles. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and is a Certified Association Executive.

We look forward to working with Michael toward a seamless 2017 event.

Posted in Administrative