Kairos Awarded Navy Contract to Develop Web-Based Tool for Detecting Social Media Bots

Kairos Research has been awarded a contract by the Office of Naval Research to develop a web-based tool and app for detecting Twitter “bot” accounts. Bots are synthetic accounts designed to mimic human behavior and influence opinion on social media, often by spreading “fake news” and other forms of misinformation. To combat this problem, Kairos is partnering with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) to develop a Twitter Follower / Friend Assessment Tool (TWIFFA). TWIFFA will enable a Twitter user to automatically scan his or her network of followers and friends for suspected bot accounts, as well as characterize and track the threat level of suspected bots. Phase 1 of the project will focus on the development and demonstration of the initial web-based prototype.

Dr. Colin Widmer, a Research Scientist at Kairos, will lead the TWIFFA project. Dr. Widmer will work closely with Dr. Nitin Agarwal of UALR, a leading researcher on bot evolution and coordination tactics and Director of UALR’s Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS). According to Dr. Widmer, “Identifying social medial bots can be very challenging, especially since bot behaviors continue to evolve to better mimic human interactions online. At the same time, combatting bots has never been more urgent. While some types of bots, such as ad bots, are mostly benign, others are designed to spread propaganda and amplify polarization in social media dialogue.”

The TWIFFA project is funded through the Department of Defense Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program, which aims to bring innovative new technologies to market by encouraging small businesses to partner with universities and other non-profit research institutions.

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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