Visualization on Hoaxy of a bot attack
A Hoaxy visualization of a bot attack

Cut through the fake and find the facts

It can be difficult to know what’s credible online and what isn’t.

But there are ways to get a clearer picture of reality.

The Observatory on Social Media’s tools have informed third-party efforts, including shutting down 10,000 bots mobilized to discourage U.S. voting.

10,000 botsseeking to discourage voting in the U.S. were deleted by twitter as a result of the center’s work

Researchers at IU’s Observatory on Social Media—a collaboration between IU’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, the IU Network Science Institute, and more recently, The Media School—have been building tools for nearly 10 years to understand how information moves across the internet and influences public opinion.

With Hoaxy, you can dig deep into visualizations that show the spread of information and misinformation online over time.

Botometer assesses whether individual Twitter accounts are likely bots, allowing anyone to determine the trustworthiness of information. Widely adopted by reporters, researchers, and the general public, Botometer fields hundreds of thousands of queries each day.

50 million+youtube videos in the Observatory on Social Media’s research database
100 billion+searchable public tweets

Two people look at a Hoaxy visualization on a big screen

Monitor suspected bot activity on Twitter in real time

BotSlayer is the Observatory on Social Media’s newest tool in the ongoing struggle against the use of bots to spread misinformation online. The beta version was used by major news and political organizations to monitor possible election interference in the U.S.

BotSlayer allows anyone to scan and explore data—i.e., tweets—directly from Twitter on specific topics of interest. It’s possible to see immediately when bots work in a coordinated way to push out messages—a practice known as “astroturfing” since it mimics authentic grassroots activity.

Use it during a televised political debate, for example, to watch how bots are deployed to attack individual candidates with the goal of affecting public perception and, ultimately, the outcome of an election.

Description of the following video:

[Video: Filippo Menczer, sitting on conference table with arms crossed begins speaking.]

Menczer speaks: My name is Filippo Menczer, and I'm the director of OSoMe, which is our Observatory on Social Media here at Indiana University.

[Video: A man and woman are voting in their respective voting booths, another man walks up to his voting booth.]

[Video: Group of young girls are crowded together, two of them focused on one of the girls’ cell phone.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: The type of misinformation that we're interested in..

[Video: 6 people – three women and three men – are shown on screen in individual squares. All of them are looking at their cell phones. Above each cell phone a graphic displays increasing likes, comments, and follows from their social media.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: ..is the misinformation that spreads virally. It can spread organically

[Video: A close up of someone’s hand scrolling through social media on a cell phone.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: because people believe it

[Video: Three sets of hands are shown texting on their cell phones.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: or it can also be pushed by

[Video: Animated graphic is shown on screen of an interconnected web of people.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: coordinated campaigns or by people who are

[Video: Animated graphic is shown on screen of various technical notifications, pop-ups, statuses and meters that are glitching.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: specifically trying to manipulate opinions.

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown talking with his arms crossed inside a graphic of a cell phone that is watching a “live stream” on social media. The live stream is shown receiving ‘thumbs ups’ and ‘hearts’.]

Menczer speaks: The information that we access affects our opinions, and then those opinions affect how we vote.

[Video: Three international politicians are sitting at a desk taking part in a meeting. There are various flags and name cards of each country.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: And those votes affect the policies that we enact.

[Video: Another angle of the meeting is shown. There are 7 individuals sitting at desks. The man in the middle is speaking and the rest of the people are giving applause.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: So a well-working democracy relies

[Video: There is a sign with a small American Flag above it, displaying the words “Vote Here”.]

[Video: An overhead look at two men and two women in their individual voting booths. Another woman is walking up to the table to collect her ballot paper.]

on informed voters.

[Video: A man and a woman are sitting at a table handing out American flags and buttons. There are people behind them holding signs that say “Vote”.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: And so if we can manipulate social media then we can

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown again from the waist up and his arms are crossed.]

Menczer speaks: manipulate people's opinion and we can manipulate democracy.

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown sitting on a conference table with his arms crossed.]

Menczer speaks: An example of a misinformation campaign

[Video: An old news clip is shown. It is a woman talking and a star graphic closing her out of the frame.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: was when

[Video: An old news graphic is shown. It is a graphic showing the polls for the Indiana Senate Election. There is a photo of Mike Braun and Joe Donnelly.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: during the midterm elections

[Video: News clip of Rockefeller Plaza ice skating rink is shown with a graphic of the United States displayed on the ice.]

[Words appear: NBC News Democracy Plaza]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover:  in 2018

[Video: An old news clip from the election is shown. There are five news anchors sitting around a desk. There are graphics relating to the election displayed on the screen behind them.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: there were

[Video: One of the men sitting at the desk from the previous news clip is shown close up.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: tweets going around

[Video: Another angle of the old news clip of the five news anchors sitting around a desk is shown.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: saying that men

[Video: The same tweet from different accounts begin to pop up and cover the screen. These tweets are accounts saying that men should not vote.]

[Words appear: Men! Respect the women in your life’s right to vote and make their votes count more by staying home this year!]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: should not vote as a way to respect women.

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown sitting on a conference table with his arms crossed.]

Menczer speaks: And these were spreading virally.

[Video: A graphic is shown of a google search being conducted.]

[Words appear: GOOGLE, hoaxy]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: And some of the tools that we developed in our

[Video: A screen recording of the Hoaxy ® beta website is shown with a search being conducted.]

[Words appear: HOAXY ® beta, Visualize the spread of claims and fact checking. Search by: Twitter, Hoaxy, 2018 Election]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: lab were used to uncover them

[Video: A screen recording shows the layout of Hoaxy and how it works.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: and flag them to the social media companies, who then

[Video: A close up of a computer cursor scrolling over the word SPAM]

[Words appear: SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: took them down. They were at least 10,000 bot accounts

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown sitting on a conference table with his arms crossed.]

Menczer speaks: that Twitter took down that were spreading this

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown again from the waist up and his arms are crossed.]

Menczer speaks: misinformation.

[Video: A close up of someone’s hand scrolling through social media on a cell phone. Graphics appear around the phone displaying likes, comments, and follows from their social media.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: It is really important to understand how people

[Video: 16 different people are shown on screen in individual squares. Some close up of people’s glasses with a reflection of their social media in the glasses, some of the people working at their desks, some are on the phone, some are on tablets. The videos in each square are changing.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: consume information and how they consume misinformation.

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown again talking.]

Menczer speaks: And that's why we realized that we needed to partner with The Media School,

[Video: An aerial shot of Franklin Hall. There is an American flag and an Indiana flag blowing in the wind.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: because we want

[Video: A woman is walking away from Franklin Hall passing a sign that says “Franklin Hall”

[Words appear: Franklin Hall, Presidents Hall]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: our tools

[Video: The entrance of Franklin Hall is shown.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: not just to be used

[Video: Two students sit in a dark room in Franklin Hall. They are both looking at the computer.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: in a lab

[Video: A man is using the Hoaxy ® app on his computer.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: but to be used by the general population. And to be used by

[Video: Two women are in the Media School newsroom. They are holding papers standing in front of cameras with a TV behind them.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: journalists so that they can understand what's true,

[Video: News anchor, Sage Steel is shown talking in front of an ESPN logo.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: what's not.

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown again from the waist up and his arms are crossed.]

Menczer speaks: It is really important to do what we can to try to

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown sitting on a conference table with his arms crossed.]

Menczer speaks: understand how the manipulation happens and counter it, so that people can actually have access to

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown again from the waist up and his arms are crossed.]

Menczer speaks: real information from real journalists about the real world and their opinions can be based on facts.

[Video: A man and a woman are sitting at a desk behind computers. There is a woman standing next to them. They are all looking at something on the desk together.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: We've been working on research

[Video: A close up of someone’s glasses. There is a reflection of the computer in the lens.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: to understand how social media

[Video: Three people are looking at a computer screen together. One of them is sitting down pointing at the computer and the other two are looking at the screen.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: are manipulated and how misinformation spreads

[Video: The top half of a mans face is shown as he is looking at a computer. The computer screen is reflected in the lens of his glasses.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: for many years. As we develop

[Video: An overheard view of four people sitting at a table. They are on their laptops, tablets and phones and are looking at different charts on their devices and on paper.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: better countermeasures, people will develop

[Video: A website’s HTML code is being edited.]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: better attacks. And this is

[Video: A graphic of computer software analyzing different threats and solving them.]

[Words appear: No current threat, analyzing threat, threat detected, threat resolved]

Menczer continues speaking in voiceover: normal in this kind of problem.

[Video: Filippo Menczer is shown sitting on a conference table.]

Menczer speaks: So what's important for all of us to know is that we, all of us, we are vulnerable.

It doesn't matter how smart we are, and how skeptic we are, and how we think that we can do our own research on Google. We can be manipulated.

[Video: A close up of someone’s phone, scrolling through social media.]

[Words appear: Indiana University, iu.edu]