- When: Friday, September 06, 2019 from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM
- Speakers: Neil Johnson, George Washington University
- Location: Research Hall 163
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Love may be in the air — but hate is thriving on the Internet, e.g. racism, anti-women, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBQT+. Despite having access to state-of-the-art ML and AI tools, social media platforms such as Facebook appear unable to keep it under control. In this talk, I show why this is and how a hybrid approach combining computer science with complex systems research and human subject-matter expertise, offers new inroads . Interconnected hate (or more general anti-X) clusters form global ‘hate highways’ that — assisted by collective online adaptation — cross social media platforms, sometimes using ‘back doors’ even after being banned, as well as jumping between countries, continents and languages. A simple network model predicts that policing within a single platform can make matters worse, and will eventually generate global ‘dark pools’ in which online hate will flourish. We observe the current hate network rapidly rewiring and self-repairing at the micro level when attacked, in a way that mimics the formation of covalent bonds in Chemistry. This new understanding enables us to propose a policy matrix classified by the preferred (or legally allowed) granularity of the intervention and top-down versus bottom-up nature. This policy matrix also offers a tool for tackling a broader class of illicit online behaviors such as financial fraud, as well as the explosion of misinformation surrounding science and modern medicine (e.g. vaccinations and cancer treatments).
 N.F. Johnson et al., Hidden resilience and adaptive dynamics of the global online hate ecology, Nature, Aug 21 2019
Neil Johnson is a professor of physics at GW and heads up a new initiative in Complexity and Data Science which combines cross-disciplinary fundamental research with data science to attack complex real-world problems. He is a core member of GW’s new Knight Foundation-funded Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. His research interests lie in the broad area of Complex Systems and ‘many-body’ out-of-equilibrium systems of collections of objects, ranging from crowds of particles to crowds of people and from environments as distinct as quantum information processing in nanostructures through to the online world of collective behavior on social media. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and is the recipient of the 2018 Burton Award from the APS. He received his BA/MA from St. John's College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge and his Ph.D. as a Kennedy Scholar from Harvard University. He was a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and later a Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford until 2007, having joined the faculty in 1992. Following a period as Professor of Physics at the University of Miami, he was appointed Professor of Physics at George Washington University in 2018. He presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures "Arrows of Time" on BBC TV in 1999. He co-founded and co-directed CABDyN (Complex Agent-Based Dynamical Systems) which is Oxford University's interdisciplinary research center in Complexity Science, and an Oxford University interdisciplinary research center in financial complexity (OCCF).
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