Social Media, Online Disinformation, and Elections: A Quantitative, “Big Data” Perspective

The past few years have heralded the age of ubiquitous disinformation – aka fake news – which poses serious questions over the role of social media and the internet in modern democratic societies. Topics and examples abound, ranging from the UK “Brexit” referendum and the 2016 US presidential election to medical misinformation (e.g. miraculous cancer cures).

We use large-scale text analysis with the GATE open-source platform (aka AI or more specifically, natural language processing) to gain valuable quantitative insights from large volumes of social media content, and thus, help answer important open questions, e.g.:

  1. How do political parties, candidates, and voters engage online in the run up to elections and referenda?
  2. How polarised are these discussions and how prevalent is abuse within?
  3. What is the role of disinformation and bots during elections? Can they influence the outcome?
  4. Can we harness more effectively social media during crises and natural disasters?
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