The internet has made it easy for narratives to spread quickly and widely without regard for accuracy or the harm they may cause to society. Unfortunately, this has led to the rise of bad actors who use fake and misleading articles to spread harmful misinformation. These actors flood the information space with low-quality articles in an effort to disrupt opposing narratives, sow confusion, and discourage the pursuit of truth. In societies that prioritize free speech, maintaining control over the information space remains a persistent challenge. Achieving this requires strategic planning to protect the dissemination of information in ways that promote dialogue towards organic consensus building and protect users from undue manipulation from foreign adversarial state actors. The objective of this dissertation is to investigate how bad actors can manipulate the information space in societies that value free speech. To achieve this objective, we will define the different narratives used to flood the information space, identify the controversial elements that contribute to their spread, and analyze the actors involved in promoting these narratives and their levels of influence. To gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics that underlie information space flooding, we will examine the flow of influence from news organizations to online users across multiple social networks, and explore the formation of online communities and echo chambers that align with specific narratives. We will also investigate the role of controversiality in information and influence spread, specifically examining how controversial authors tend to be sources of influence in these networks. By addressing these objectives, we hope to provide an analysis of the ways in which bad actors can manipulate the information space. Furthermore, we aim to provide insights into how we can develop strategies to counteract these efforts and protect the integrity of the information ecosystem. Through our investigation, we hope to contribute to the growing body of research focused on understanding and addressing the challenges posed by bad actors in the information space.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Jasser, Jasser, "Identification and Modeling Social Media Influence Pathways: a Characterization of a Disinformation Campaign Using the Flooding-the-zone Strategy via Transfer Entropy" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1583.