Agarwal Receives New Grant Funding for Cyber Campaign Research

Dr. Nitin Agarwal

Dr. Nitin Agarwal

UALR’s Dr. Nitin Agarwal is taking the social media research world by storm, fueled by the support of the university and external sponsors. The Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy Endowed Chair Professor of Information Science just received a $186,692 grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research to fund his exploration of cyber campaigns—his fourth major grant in the last academic year.

This new grant will enable Agarwal to continue his investigation into the practices, tactics, and motivations of both the organizers of and participants in web-based mass movements. Specifically, this project, titled “Analyzing Integrated Social Media-Facilitated Propaganda Campaigns Using Social Network Analysis and Cyber Forensics,” focuses on deviant, often deception-based online movements—“cyber campaigns”—that manifest in physical behaviors and events. The groups behind these campaigns have insidious intentions—Agarwal states that their goal is to “provoke hysteria, influence mass opinions, stoke civil unrest, effect civil conflict, or even coordinate cyberattacks.”

The effects of these cyber campaigns have been seen all over the world, with major transnational crime organizations utilizing social media to recruit, spread propaganda, and create action. Their tactics are complex and diverse, ranging from publishing fake pictures to hiring armies of “trolls” that spread propaganda on blogs and social media. To help combat this growing issue, Agarwal and a graduate student assistant will use cyber forensics and deep web searching to study cyber campaigns. With this data, they will develop models for detecting and predicting the online behavior of deviant groups. The researchers will determine the universal characteristics of cyber campaigns, including how they project a group identity on and motivate followers.

This new project builds on Dr. Agarwal’s already significant body of social media research and behavioral modeling. It is part of a larger research program in his COSMOS (Center Of Social Media and Online behavioral Studies) lab, whose efforts are funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Office of Naval Research, U.S. Air Force Research Lab, and U.S. Army Research Office. More details on these projects can be found on Dr. Agarwal’s project website.

This project is sponsored by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research.

Disclaimer: 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.

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