Indiana University’s Observatory on Social Media, funded in part last year with a $3 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, has named two new Knight Fellows.
Matthew DeVerna and Harry Yaojun Yan will help advance the center’s ongoing investigations into how information and misinformation spread online. The Observatory on Social Media, or OSoMe (pronounced “awesome”), is a collaboration between the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering; The Media School; and the IU Network Science Institute.
DeVerna is a Ph.D. student in the Luddy School, working with Filippo Menczer, Distinguished Professor in the Luddy School and OSoMe director. DeVerna studies network algorithms related to the manipulation of social media, with the aim of identifying superspreaders of disinformation and curbing their abuse.
Yan is a Ph.D. student in both The Media School and the Luddy School. Working with James Shanahan, dean of The Media School and a co-leader of OSoMe, Yan focuses on social dynamics and public opinion formation. He was lead author on a recent published study showing that people’s ability to differentiate genuine Twitter profiles from bots is influenced by a user’s political leanings, as well as the partisan content of a profile.
“We are grateful to Knight Foundation for sponsoring our new fellows," Menczer said. "They are already engaged in critical efforts to detect false narratives and quantify their impact on the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming US election.”
As Knight Fellows, DeVerna and Yan will have access to interdisciplinary faculty and research resources at the Luddy School and The Media School. They will also have access to the Knight Research Network, a group of scholars whose work is supported by Knight Foundation’s $50 million investment in new research to expand understanding of how technology is transforming democracy in our digital age. IU was among the original 11 institutions to receive support through the network that has grown to include 57 research centers and projects.
“We are still in the early days of understanding the emergent threats of digital disinformation and harmful, manipulative content online,” said John Sands, director of learning and impact at Knight Foundation. “OSoMe’s Knight Fellows represent a new generation of leading-edge scholars who will ensure our democracy is equipped with data and tools to face these challenges.”
"These fellows help us establish an important collaboration in the intersecting worlds of journalism and digital technology,” said Shanahan. “I’m looking forward to the work they will do and their future leadership in this emerging field.”
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.