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New Software Detects Dishonest Online Posters

New Software Detects Dishonest Online Posters

A new study describes a method for detecting people dishonestly posting online comments, reviews or tweets across multiple accounts, a practice known as “astroturfing.”

Dr. Kim-Kwang Raymond Choo, an associate professor of information systems and cybersecurity at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), created the algorithm that analyzes multiple writing samples.

The program is designed to detect people using multiple online accounts to spread propaganda.

Choo and his collaborators found that it’s challenging for authors to completely conceal their writing style in their text. Based on word choice, punctuation and context, the method is able to detect whether one person or multiple people are responsible for the samples.

Choo and his co-authors (two former students of his, Jian Peng and Sam Detchon, and Dr. Helen Ashman, associate professor of information technology and mathematical sciences at the University of South Australia) analyzed writing samples from the most prolific online commenters on various news web sites.

They discovered that many people espousing their opinions online were actually all linked to a few singular writers with multiple accounts. “Astroturfing is legal, but it’s questionable ethically,” Choo said. “As long as social media has been popular, this has existed.”

The practice has been used by businesses to manipulate social media users or online shoppers, by having one paid associate post false reviews on websites about products for sale.

It’s also used on social media wherein astroturfers create several false accounts to espouse opinions, creating the illusion of a consensus when actually one person is pretending to be many.

“It can be used for any number of reasons,” Choo said. “Businesses can use this to encourage support for their products or services, or to sabotage other competing companies by spreading negative opinions through false identities.”

Candidates for elected office have also been accused of astroturfing to create the illusion of public support for a cause or a campaign.

For example, President George W. Bush, the Tea Party movement, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump have all been accused of astroturfing to claim widespread enthusiasm for their platforms.

Now that Choo has the capability to detect one person pretending to be many online, he is considering further applications for his top-tier research.

Stressing that astroturfing, while frowned upon, is not illegal, he’s now looking into whether the algorithm can be used to prevent plagiarism and contract cheating.

“In addition to raising public awareness of the problem, we hope to develop tools to detect astroturfers so that social media users can make informed choices and resist online social manipulation and propaganda,” Choo said.

Source: UTSA

New Software Detects Dishonest Online Posters

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). New Software Detects Dishonest Online Posters. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 23, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/10/25/new-software-detects-astroturfers/111588.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 25 Oct 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Oct 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.