Understanding mass influence campaigns
Cyber-based attacks are not just limited to security networks.
They often take the form of sophisticated mass influence campaigns, usually via social media platforms, designed to change the thoughts and behaviours of the larger population.
A/Prof Carolyn Semmler’s team (including Dr Matteo Farina and Prof Lewis Mitchell) are developing a deeper understanding of the types of conversation that happen during these campaigns and where they are likely to turn from words into actions.
"Social media is integrated into the fabric of our society and a powerful tool for shaping beliefs and action in large numbers of people. It is optimised to keep us engaged and the best way to do that is to generate strong emotions, whether positive or negative"
"Our research looks at the specific types of content which change people’s beliefs and encourage them to coalesce around an issue they may not have been aware of or interested in previously."
"We are developing models that help us understand how groups form, what type of content is more likely to be shared and how misinformation can build to the point where these groups act, in the form of protests or other direct actions."
"The biggest challenge is the volume of data. We analysed 7 days’ worth of content related to COVID-19 lockdowns, for example, and ended up with 73,000 conversations to analyse. Part of our research, therefore, is also working out how to provide security analysts with powerful AI algorithms which help to make sense of content, without introducing bias."
The scope of this research requires experts from a wide range of disciplines including not only behavioural science, psychology, maths, data science and engineering, but also politics and ethics.