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International Research Project

Chances & Risks of Social Media

  • von Beate Kostka
  • 15.01.2019

Social media are often criticized: fake news and social bots manipulate and disturb public communication. At the same time, they generate a large amount of data in real time during disasters – data that is important for the first response to such events, for example. The new research project “RISE_SMA – Social Media Analytics for Society and Crises” deals with this area of tension.

This project will be carried out by nine participating institutions in Europe, Australia, Latin America and Southeast Asia and coordinated by the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE). This interdisciplinary network will receive nearly 1.2 million euros of funding from the EU by 2022. It includes selected top researchers, technology companies and political stakeholders.

The other participants are Leiden University (Netherlands), the University of Agder (Norway), the University of Sydney (Australia), Queensland University of Technology (Australia), UNISINOS (Brazil) and the University of Padjadjaran (Indonesia) as well as the software development company Virtimo in Berlin and the municipality of Kristiansand (Norway).

A danger for social cohesion?

Social media channels are becoming increasingly important – and not just since President Trump uses them to express his opinions and make official announcements. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have changed social communication enormously. They are used by individuals as well as by political, economic and scientific players to disseminate information and messages or to find out what others think.

Professor Stefan Stieglitz of the University of Duisburg-Essen who coordinates RISE_SMA says: “The positive side is that social media promote public discourse. However, fake news and social bots are also increasingly jeopardizing social cohesion in many countries.”

Theoretical approaches and methods for analyzing social media data are all the more important. The growing role of social media as fast information media for citizens and rescue services becomes apparent, for example, during natural disasters or efforts to find missing persons. RISE_SMA aims to improve data analytics in order to filter out relevant information and process it effectively.

Prof. Stieglitz comments: “Apart from the technical requirements, it is of primary importance from an ethical and data-protection perspective that this data is handled responsibly.” This means that individuals, relief organizations and political stakeholders should benefit from a higher transparency enabling them to make better decisions – for example, in connection with elections or rescue missions.

Additional information:
Prof. Dr. Stefan Stieglitz, Professional Communication in Electronic & Social Media, Tel. +49 203 379-1341, stefan.stieglitz@uni-due.de

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