Frequently Asked Questions about Media Forensics and the Hub
- What is media forensics?
Media forensics is traditionally viewed as the scientific study of the collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of audio, video, and image evidence obtained during legal proceedings. But we think of it more broadly as the process of providing context to media to increase the depth of our understanding of the media and its implications.
- Why is media forensics important?
We live in a world where we spend an increasing amount of time in digital spaces. American adults are online for about 24 hours a week, and increasingly consume news from online resources, including social media, apps, and websites. Understanding the nature and validity of online content and the process of online media consumption and interaction are vital to healthy civil discourse and strong democracy.
- What’s the difference between a bot and a troll?
A wholly automated social media account that mimics human behavior is typically referred to as a bot. Legitimate social media bots can provide sports scores and weather, but more malicious bots spread disinformation. An account that takes on a fake persona to deceive is often called a troll (the person operating such an account is also often called a troll). These accounts are sometimes referred to as sock puppet accounts. Accounts that are partially automated and partially controlled by a human are call "cyborg" accounts. David Klepper from The Associated Press explains the difference between bots and trolls: Cyborgs, Trolls, and Bots: A Guide to Online Misinformation.
- What is the difference between misinformation and disinformation?
Misinformation is simply false or inaccurate information that is not created or spread with the intention to deceive. Disinformation, on the other hand, is a subset of misinformation and is spread deliberately to deceive. The English word disinformation is a loan translation of the Russian dezinformatsiya, derived from a KGB black propaganda department's title. Read more about disinformation: Disinformation, National Public Radio's Word Of The Year And A Sign Of What's To Come an insightful discussion by Geoff Nunberg.
- Why do people create misinformation and disinformation?
Much misinformation is created purely for profit. Charlatans such as Alex Jones and his website Infowars create and spread inaccurate and salacious content to sell products to their viewers. Nation states spread misinformation and disinformation to influence how citizens (their own and others’) view important issues or to undermine legitimate discourse. Many domestic actors create misinformation and disinformation for political gain or often just for attention. The reasons are many and varied.
- I have a suspicious social media account I’d like for you to look at. Is it a troll?
It's important to understand, the vast majority of social media accounts are genuine. Real people can, however, believe in conspiracy theories. Real people can be obsessive and post at high rates. Real people can even repeat the state propaganda of China, Russia, or Iran. The odds are high; any given account is a genuine person voicing their actual beliefs. Sometimes, however, they aren't, and there are signs you can use to tell. If you'd like to learn more, take a look at our Spot the Troll quiz.
- How can I get involved in the Media Forensics Hub?
I am an undergraduate student -- The Media Forensics Hub runs a regular Creative Inquiry class for Clemson Students. Learn more about it.
I am a researcher -- Consider joining a Working Group.
I am a journalist or member of the public -- Contact the Media Forensics Hub with questions or concerns at MediaForensics@Clemson.edu
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