Disinformation from ‘Data Craft’

A report from Data & SocietyData Craft: The Manipulation of Social Media Metadata—examines methods used to create disinformation campaigns on social media; in particular, the collection and manipulation of metadata to create content that appears authentic and legitimate.  Hand holding smartphone with media icons and symbol collection

Amelia Acker, a researcher in critical data systems and information infrastructures at the University of Texas at Austin, coined the term “Data Craft” to describe any “practices that create, rely on, or even play with the proliferation of data on social media by engaging with new computational and algorithmic mechanisms of organization and classification.”

This report uses three case studies to reveal vulnerabilities in three major social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It shows how online manipulators use tactics such as astroturfing, click farms, metadata manipulation, and botnets to create false engagement and promote content.

Manipulators are getting craftier at faking what looks like authentic behavior on social media.

Platforms are continually increasing efforts to combat social media manipulation, but as the tactics change, platforms must adapt with them.  Data Craft provides valuable new insight into the methods online manipulators use to create illegitimate content, and provides ways for platforms to read metadata, identify disinformation campaigns, and develop algorithms for preventing the infiltration of bad actors in the social media context.

More resources and reports on disinformation, fake news, and cybersecurity can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

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