PropStop is a project funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) that aims at studying hidden propaganda disseminations via online media, in order to identify and prove accordant attempts.
Nowadays, people worldwide discuss and comment societal and political developments on the Internet, for instance on social media platforms or on news websites. Not only journalists rely on social media as a source for ‘trending topics’ or offer their users the possibility to state their opinion publicly on the Net.
Beyond the desired space for free expression of public opinions, such Internet offerings also provide options for large-scaled concerted manipulations.
Semi- to full automatized systems, so-called ‘propaganda-bots’ or ‘social-bots’ (mis-)use the easy access to the (technical) infrastructure in order to covertly disseminate certain public opinions ’en masse’.
Such propaganda attacks can result in a distorted image of the digital public opinion. This distorted image could then influence the single user, societal debates, and coverage and therewith finally cause severe damages.
Throughout the project an interdisciplinary team of statisticians, communication scientists, IT-security researchers, journalists and IT-security companies works together.
Besides a large-scale examination of propaganda characteristics online, huge quantities of public opinion statements in different areas of the digital public sphere will be analyzed for repeated semantic and technical patterns.
The insights gained throughout the project will be used to enhance our detection of massive, hidden propaganda attacks, to develop technologies to identify these attacks, and to improve our abilities to verify propaganda attacks.
Real-time simulations of massive hidden propaganda attacks will provide meaningful insights into the transdisciplinary applicability of the gained findings.