On Friday, March 23 the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy will host an interdisciplinary lunch open to faculty and graduate students across the UNC system with Dr. Deen Freelon, Associate Professor in the School of Media and Journalism. Freelon will lead a discussion on tracking and analyzing the Russian influence operation on Twitter, which became a topic of debate following the 2016 presidential election cycle.
In late 2017, Twitter and Facebook revealed that agents backed by the Russian government had been infiltrating American political conversations for years. Posing as concerned citizens from across the ideological spectrum, these agents surreptitiously spread propaganda disguised as home-grown political chatter. Two challenges, one theoretical and the other methodological, confront researchers interested in studying this campaign of information warfare. First, the fields of communication and political science offer little theoretical guidance about how to study such tactics, which are known as influence operations in military studies and dezinformatsiya in Russian and Slavic studies. Second, Twitter and Facebook removed all such propagandistic content from public view upon confirming their existence, which makes obtaining the data difficult (but not impossible).
In this talk, Dr. Freelon will explain how he and his collaborators are addressing these challenges and present key preliminary findings from their ongoing project focused on this campaign.
Dr. Freelon’s research covers two major areas of scholarship: 1) political expression through digital media and 2) data science and computational methods for analyzing large digital datasets. He has authored or co-authored more than 30 journal articles, book chapters and public reports, in addition to co-editing one scholarly book. He has served as principal investigator on grants from the Knight Foundation, the Spencer Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has written research-grade software to calculate intercoder reliability for content analysis (ReCal), analyze large-scale network data from social media (TSM), and collect data from Facebook (fb_scrape_public). He formerly taught at American University in Washington, D.C. http://dfreelon.org/
The Center will provide lunch to those who register by Wednesday, March 21. Register at https://medialaw.unc.edu/events/march-interdisciplinary-lunch-featuring-deen-freelon/