Rensselaer Researcher To Follow the Trail of Misinformation

On 9/11, lawmakers from both parties unified in their response. Just over 20 years later, Congress is distinctly partisan, clashing on everything from the January 6 insurrection to COVID to climate change. Why? Many blame widespread and widely believed misinformation and disinformation. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Boleslaw Szymanski, Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, is part of an interdisciplinary team of researchers examining the flow of (mis)information in social media.

Mass shootings: Conservative, liberal #socialmedia users starting to agree — enough is enough, says @UNLV researcher

Schoolchildren huddled in Uvalde, Tex. classrooms as classmates and teachers are cut down by a rogue gunman. A peaceful weekend afternoon at a Buffalo, N.Y. grocery store interrupted by a white supremacist who sprays the aisles of elderly, predominantly African American weekend shoppers with an AR-15 style rifle. Only five months into the year, these attacks tallied as the 198th and 214th U.

These red flags can let you know when you’re in an online echo chamber

Researchers at UC Santa Cruz have identified specific elements of tone and style in online speech that are linked to hyperpartisan echo chambers. These language markers could also prove useful for flagging spaces where disinformation may be likely to emerge.

As COVID-19 and Online Misinformation Spread, Children and Teens Were Poisoned with Hand Sanitizer and Alcoholic Drinks

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, as false health information spread on social media, the number of children and teens poisoned with hand sanitizer or alcoholic beverages surged in Iran. These poisonings resulted in hundreds of hospitalizations and 22 deaths. Misinformation circulating on social media included the false suggestion that consuming alcohol (methanol) or hand sanitizer (ethanol or isopropyl alcohol) protected against COVID-19 infection (it does not). A major alcohol poisoning outbreak sickened nearly 6,000 Iranian adults, of whom 800 died. It was not known, however, to what extent children and adolescents were affected. For the study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, investigators compared pediatric hospitalizations for ethanol and methanol poisoning during the early COVID-19 pandemic in Iran with the same period the previous year. They also looked at types of exposure and how those were linked to the children’s ages and clinical outcomes.

FSMB: Spreading COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation May Put Medical License at Risk

The Federation of State Medical Boards’ Board of Directors released statement in response to a dramatic increase in the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation by physicians and other health care professionals on social media platforms, online and in the media.

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog – or a fake Russian Twitter account

This study investigates how successful Russian Internet Research Agency Twitter accounts built the followings that were central to their disinformation campaigns around the 2016 US presidential election. Many legacy media outlets played an unwitting role in the growth, according to the findings.

Drowning in Disinformation

The use and spread of disinformation—false or misleading information intended to deceive people—is being amplified and accelerated at an alarming rate on the internet via social media. In a white paper for the Computing Research Association’s (CRA) Computing Community Consortium (CCC), researchers from Columbia Engineering, the Santa Fe Institute, the University of Colorado, and Arizona State University outline steps to begin dealing with the disinformation problem.