Philip Howard (Professor of Internet Studies at the Oxford Internet Institute and Professorial Fellow), Lisa-Maria Neudert, a Balliol postgraduate student reading for a DPhil inInformation, Communication & Social Sciences, and Gillian Bolsover (Balliol 2012) are part of a research team that has won the National Democratic Institute (NDI) W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award.
Philip Howard is Principal Investigator at the Project on Computational Propaganda at the Oxford Internet Institute, which has won the award. The project carries out research into how social media is being used to manipulate public opinion and influence elections worldwide. On receiving the award, he said: ‘Our team broke the story that bots and junk news were being used to manipulate voters in systematic ways in countries around the world. We started off studying these things in authoritarian regimes, but when Brexit and the US election happened we were ahead of the curve in being able to identify how social media is used by political parties and governments around the world.’
Lisa-Maria, a researcher on the project, added: ‘Our research found that misinformation has been shared ubiquitously during elections in the US, the UK, France and Germany over the past year. The US is an especially worrying case, with social media users sharing equal amounts of information and misinformation during the elections.’
The NDI award annually recognises individuals or groups that have shown a ‘deep and abiding commitment to democracy and human rights’. The Oxford project shares this year’s award with two other groups. Past recipients of the award include former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former US President Bill Clinton.