Dr. Agarwal and collaborators are awarded a $7.5 million project to analyze online political groups

Dr. Nitin Agarwal

Dr. Nitin Agarwal, the Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy Endowed Chair Professor of Information Science at UA Little Rock, is collaborating on a five-year, $7.5 million project recently awarded from the U.S.  Department of Defense (DoD)/Office of Naval Research (ONR) under the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program. The project is scheduled to start in September 2017. Dr. Agarwal, who was specifically awarded $676,955, is collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University, University of South Carolina, and University of Pittsburgh to assess and develop new research models to track online groups that have a political agenda and focus.

The project, called “Near Real Time Assessment of Emergent Complex Systems of Confederates,” focuses on developing novel approaches to modeling factions and conflict. More specifically, the researchers will develop new tools and theories that assess behaviors, motivations, political climate information, economic indicators, voting data, and social media posts. By researching this type of information, they will be able to assess underlying narratives of these groups and construct forecasts that will provide situation awareness for a region affected by political unrest, conflict and hostility.

Dr. Agarwal will specifically focus on analyzing blogs and YouTube videos. Because blogs are not as organized as other social media sites, he will use cyber forensic tools to detect invisible connections among these sites, such as IP addresses and web tracking codes.

Dr. Agarwal and his team, COSMOS – the Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies, will advance socio-computational research on group dynamics to identify coordinating factions among groups. These factions, who could be considered as backbones of groups, are fundamental to understanding groups’ resilience. Agarwal’s research will shed insights on the formation and evolution of these factions.  Preliminary research in this direction conducted by Dr. Agarwal and his team on identifying key network subcomponents has successfully been used to track pro-ISIS Twitter groups.

This project is sponsored by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research or any other funder.

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