Muddied waters: Online rumors, conspiracy theories and disinformation

What were the goals of the workshop?

The goals of this workshop was to learn about Kate Starbird’s research on how social computing has allowed/encourage rumor to build, especially after a crisis response and explore different research methods that can be used to study social media.

Why did you choose to attend this workshop?

Since my resident project is highly focus on research on information sharing and spreading on social media, I wanted to learn about what is done in the field.

What's the best/coolest thing you learned during the workshop?

With her work on collecting data after recent crisis events (i.e. Boston Marathon Bombing, Las Vegas Shooting), Katie was able to identity the following three big categories of tweets:

  • Sensemaking Rumor
  • Clickbait Rumor
  • Conspiracy Theory

She then dived into the third category looking at how alternative narratives of crisis events have formed. For example, claims such as “mass shooting events are staged by the FBI to take away guns or have sticker gun laws” all have the hasgtag #falseflag and leading language. Her work inspired some potential secondary studies that I can do to dig into these hastags and link them with particular websites/sources.

What can you do now that you couldn't before?

Using the Twitter Streaming API, you can gather tweets that have a specific hashtag(s) and included a URL to create something called the Domain Network Graph. You can then get a sense of what type of topics (i.e. Anti-media, Anti-globalization) are from what particular websites (i.e.,, Washingtonpost) as well as which ones are bots (i.e.

Why would you recommend this workshop to someone else?

MISC have these speaker workshop series almost every week, it is very interesting to learn about research done on information and learn about methods that you can apply to your own project.


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