UA-Little Rock Professor Awarded $1.5M to Study Cyber Propaganda Campaigns


UA-Little Rock Professor Awarded $1.5M to Study Cyber Propaganda Campaigns
Nitin Agarwal

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Tuesday announced that information science professor Nitin Agarwal has received more than $1.5 million to research ways to aid U.S. military forces in the fight against cyber propaganda campaigns.

The Office of Naval Research awarded the grant to Agarwal, who is also the UA-Little Rock Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair and has received numerous similar grants for his work.

The money will help him continue his investigation into the practices, tactics and motivations of

organizers of web-based mass movements and their participants.

Agarwal's research project, "Developing Novel Socio-Computational Methodologies to Analyze Multimedia-based Cyber Propaganda Campaigns," begins this month and will wrap up in January 2019.

The university said he will use cyber forensics and deep web search-based methodologies to study the sources of false information on the internet, how it is spread through social media and how people and groups strategically use this false information to conduct cyber propaganda campaigns.

Also, Agarwal will use this and previous research to develop models that can identify key individuals and groups responsible for conducting cyber propaganda campaigns, groups that including major transnational crime organizations like ISIS that are utilizing social media to recruit, influence and encourage action.

Agarwal said in a news release that his models "will help assess the state of the discontent and unrest among the people and design risk-averse strategies to enhance human security for NATO forces, U.S. forces, citizens and international aid workers."

The university said, while social media networks have endowed citizens with the power to freely express their opinions, they have also become a powerful tool to disseminate weaponized narratives. Agarwal added, "Irresponsible citizen journalism poses a threat to democratic principles and institutions by misrepresenting facts and information."

The goal of his research is to gain a better understanding of issues like these.