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Emotions in Adversarial Information Campaigns

PI: Susannah Paletz, University of Maryland

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The Role of Emotions in Adversarial Information Campaigns

Principal Investigator: Susannah Paletz, University of Maryland 

Co-Investigators: C. Anton Rytting, University of Maryland; Ewa Golonka, University of Maryland; Cody Buntain, New Jersey Institute of Technology;  Egle Murauskaite, University of Maryland; and Devin Ellis, University of Maryland

Years of Award: 2019-2022

Managing Service Agency: Office of Naval Research

Project Description:

Russian disinformation campaigns on social media have revealed a stark vulnerability in the security of the United States and its NATO European allies. This challenge and the subsequent solutions are multidisciplinary, touching on various aspects of human behavior, cognition, and interaction. We propose that whether a narrative goes viral depends in large part on whether it elicits specific emotions (e.g., anger, contempt, humor) and the intensity of those emotions. This study entails the collection of real-world Facebook and YouTube data from Poland and Lithuania, chosen for their strategic relevance to NATO and Europe. In this project, we will annotate a sample of public social media messages for emotions and narrative content. Using a recently-created annotation scheme that includes over 20 emotions and draws on current, nuanced psychological theories and research on emotions, we will examine both the emotional content of the posts and the emotional reactions of the annotators. Our sampling involves choosing social media accounts from social and political influencers (or attempted influencers) and specific posts regarding political topics. Annotators will be recruited from universities in Poland and Lithuania and will make their assessments in their native languages. We will then conduct multi-level statistical analyses of the impact of emotions, specific narratives, account and message features (e.g., language, culture) on social media sharing and engagement. If successful, the results of this research will significantly enhance our understanding of the role of emotion in how information travels through populations and media environments. 

Select Publications:

Paletz, Susannah B. F, Brooke E Auxier, and Ewa M Golonka. 2019. A Multidisciplinary Framework Of Information Propagation Online. Chem, Switzerland: Springer Nature

Paletz, Susannah B. F. (Ed.) (2018). Measuring emotions in social media: Examining the relationship between emotional content and propagation. College Park, MD: University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language.