DARPA wants to simulate how social media spreads info like wildfire

DARPA SocialSim program develop high-fidelity computational simulation of online social behavior


When it comes to understanding which, what and how popular information travels the Internet, we have a lot to learn.

That seems to be the idea behind a new program that the researchers at The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will unravel next month that aims to simulate the spread and evolution of online information.

+More on Network World: DARPA: Show us how to weaponize benign technologies+

The goal of the program -- Computational Simulation of Online Social Behavior (SocialSim) is to develop what the agency calls “innovative technologies for high-fidelity computational simulation of online social behavior. SocialSim will focus specifically on information spread and evolution. Current computational approaches to social and behavioral simulation are limited in this regard.”

DARAP said such highly accurate, scalable computerized simulation of how online information spreads would help analyze strategic disinformation campaigns by adversaries, deliver critical information to local populations during disaster relief operations and could potentially contribute to other critical missions in the online information domain.

“At present, the U.S. Government employs small teams of experts to speculate how information may spread. While these activities provide some insight, they take considerable time to orchestrate and execute, the accuracy with which they represent real-world online behavior is unknown, and their scale (in terms of the size and granularity with which populations are represented) is such that they embody only a fraction of the real world,” DARPA stated.

DARPA said specific SocialSim objectives are:

  • Develop technologies that can accurately simulate online information spread and evolution at scales representing populations of interest (i.e., thousands to tens of millions)
  • Develop efficient and robust methods for providing data to support simulation development, testing, and measurement
  • Develop rigorous methods and metrics for quantitatively assessing the accuracy and scalability of simulations of online information spread and evolution

SocialSim is but one of DARPA’s forays into the social media/Internet world. Late last year it announced a program called Force Protection in the Online Information Environment which looks to develop automated software that can detect online intent to harm U.S. service members stationed overseas.

In 2014  DARPA said it was rolling out its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program with a goal to develop a social networks science and create automated and  operator support tools and techniques for the systematic use of social media at data scale.

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