Research Included How Social Networks Influence Behavior
Social media networks were the focus of a recent DARPA — the Pentagon-run Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — study in a bid to gain insight to their users.
Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter and others were all examined in the study, a report published by The Guardian reveals.
The multi-million dollar project included analysis of tweets from celebrities including Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga as well as collecting scads of information from tweets and other posts on social media sites. Some of the study even involved messaging users to see how they would respond and what was said.
The research went beyond that, though, as the study looked at how social media networks were used to influence society.
“The project list includes a study of how activists with the Occupy movement used Twitter as well as a range of research on tracking internet memes and some about understanding how influence behavior (liking, following, retweeting) happens on a range of popular social media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, Kickstarter, Digg and Reddit,” The Guardian’s report noted.
The project, known as the Social Media in Strategic Communication, allowed DARPA to get a grasp on how social networks are shaping the world.
On it’s site, DARPA said it’s goal with the project “is to develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base. Through the program, DARPA seeks to develop tools to support the efforts of human operators to counter misinformation or deception campaigns with truthful information.”
The Guardian reported it reached out to experts to weigh in on the matter. One such expert, Emilio Ferrara, who examined how the digital age played a role in the Occupy Wall Street movement, said it appears DARPA was above-the-board in its approach.
“According to federal regulations of human experimentation, for studies that don’t affect the environment of online users, and whereas one can freely gather online data – say, from the public Twitter feed – there is no requirement of informed consent,” said Ferrara. “This is the framework under which our Twitter study was carried out; moreover, all our studies on Twitter look into aggregate collective phenomena and never at the individual level.”