Cover: Digital Cloning of Online Social Networks for Language-Sensitive Agent-Based Modeling of Misinformation Spread

Digital Cloning of Online Social Networks for Language-Sensitive Agent-Based Modeling of Misinformation Spread

Published in: PLoS ONE, Volume 19, No. 6, e0304889 (2024). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0304889

Posted on Jun 26, 2024

by Prateek Puri, Gabriel W. Hassler, Sai Prathyush Katragadda, Anton Shenk

We develop a simulation framework for studying misinformation spread within online social networks that blends agent-based modeling and natural language processing techniques. While many other agent-based simulations exist in this space, questions over their fidelity and generalization to existing networks in part hinder their ability to drive policy-relevant decision making. To partially address these concerns, we create a 'digital clone' of a known misinformation sharing network by downloading social media histories for over ten thousand of its users. We parse these histories to both extract the structure of the network and model the nuanced ways in which information is shared and spread among its members. Unlike many other agent-based methods in this space, information sharing between users in our framework is sensitive to topic of discussion, user preferences, and online community dynamics. To evaluate the fidelity of our method, we seed our cloned network with a set of posts recorded in the base network and compare propagation dynamics between the two, observing reasonable agreement across the twin networks over a variety of metrics. Lastly, we explore how the cloned network may serve as a flexible, low-cost testbed for misinformation countermeasure evaluation and red teaming analysis. We hope the tools explored here augment existing efforts in the space and unlock new opportunities for misinformation countermeasure evaluation, a field that may become increasingly important to consider with the anticipated rise of misinformation campaigns fueled by generative artificial intelligence.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.