Social media platforms have played a significant role in the organization of the Anti- Extradition Law Amendment Bill (Anti-ELAB) movement and in shaping the perception of it. Social media has also played a major role in the propagation of rumors related to the protests, which in turn have exacerbated divisions and discontent in Hong Kong society. This project will examine how political, protest-related rumors emerged and spread on the Internet and suggest possible intervention strategies to prevent the propagation of factually incorrect rumors, whether spread intentionally (so-called disinformation) or not (so-called misinformation).
This project studies this phenomenon on several widely used social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, LIHKG, Weibo, select public Telegram groups, and relevant forums on Reddit. We examine which account characteristics make specific users more likely to initiate and spread rumors. By comparing them to rumors that did not cascade and reach a broad audience, we can identify the type of rumors that are most likely to gain traction. We also try to establish which factors contribute or hinder the spread of specific rumors and pinpoint particular time periods and specific users that were crucial to its spread.
Depending on their major, pre-exisiting knowledge and willingness to learn new skills, students will be included in a variety of tasks. An applicant with programming skills could help scraping and cleaning the data collected on different social media platforms. Others will compile information on specific rumors, help with fact-checking, and investigate if or how those rumors have been covered by main stream media. Students will also help classify whether specific posts refer to a given rumor, and if a specific response is intended to fact-check or combat the spread of rumours.
Participants will gain a deeper understanding of how rumours spread on social media, and on the actors involved in spreading them. They will learn how to spot rumours and how to fact-check them. And they will learn how to gather and analyze large troves of social media posts from different platforms.