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Twitter Bots and Hate Speech in Persian Gulf Countries

The next speaker in this AoIR 2017 session is Mark Owen Jones, whose focus is on social media propaganda in Persian Gulf states. Overall, there is still a considerable lack of research into social media propaganda in Arabic; in Gulf states, there is a long history of 'fake news' in social media, and hate speech towards particular groups, ethnicities, and countries is not uncommon. Hate speech may be operationalised by ruling autocrats as a tool to divide and rule the population; different religious groups are allowed to attack each other, to keep them from uniting and toppling the government.

Connective 'Alt-Right' Action on Reddit

The next speaker in this AoIR 2017 session is Alex Hogan, whose focus is on the impact of online political communities in politics. There is still considerable debate on whether online action promotes or retards other forms of collective action offline; the recent rise of the 'alt-right' adds another chapter to this discussion.

Computational Propaganda around the World

I arrived late to the final AoIR 2017 session on computational propaganda, and I think it's Samantha Bradshaw speaking at the moment. She's presenting the overall Computational Propaganda project at the University of Oxford, which from secondary source research identified some 23 countries that were known to be using some kind of informational warfare online at this stage.

Towards e-Privacy by Design in European Union Legislation

The second keynote at AoIR 2017 is by Marju Lauristin, who is both a professor at the University of Tartu and the rapporteur on e-privacy at the European Parliament, where she also represents Estonia as an MEP; indeed she has been named one of the most influential Estonian women in the world. This week the Parliament voted on new EU privacy regulations which Marju has been instrumental in developing.

Her focus here is on the impact of algorithms on deliberative democracy, and the short summary of the situation is that algorithms will severely affect democracy if the companies that utilise them remain unchecked, and that they will prevented from doing so only if effective legislation is enacted to protect democratic processes.

YouTube's Disruptive Effect on the Saudi Mediasphere

The second speaker in this AoIR 2017 session is Omar Daoudi, whose interest is in the Saudi government's reactions to YouTube content. This work covers the period of time between 2010 and 2016, after which there were also considerable changes in government policy.

Selfie Protests and the Creation of a Shared Sense of Identity

The post-lunch session at AoIR 2017 starts with Giovanni Boccia Artieri, whose interest is in the #selfieprotest phenomenon. Overall, online and social media platforms are playing an increasing role in protest movements, of course, and one of the challenges here is to find some of the boundaries of the public sphere that emerges through this, as well as to trace the dynamics of engagement in these spaces.

Bots in the U.K.'s Brexit Referendum

The next speaker in this AoIR 2017 session is Marco Bastos, whose focus is on the Brexit referendum. He notes that a substantial number of bots were active in the Brexit debate on Twitter, yet many of these accounts disappeared immediately after the referendum. But it is also important to distinguish between different bots: there are legitimate bot developers that offer such accounts, while genuine, highly active users are sometimes also misidentified as bots.

The Discursive Institutionalisation of 'Fake News' in Germany

The third speaker in this AoIR 2017 session is Kirsten Gollatz, whose focus is on the institutionalisation of the 'fake news' controversy in Germany. The debate on 'fake news' there continues, and the term itself is controversial; it has now entered the German dictionary, but nonetheless remains ill-defined. There is an ongoing renegotiation of the norms, rules, and responsibilities of the various relevant actors in this context.

'Fake' as a Floating Signifier in Danish News

The next speaker in this AoIR 2017 session is Johan Farkas, whose focus is on 'fake news' in Denmark. he begins by suggesting that we are now entering a hyper-factual era: digital media are transforming our definition of news, and political leaders have been capitalising on this by creating their own definitions of news. This has also been described as an era of 'post-truth', but at the same time we have rarely talked more about what is 'true' and what is 'false' than we do today.

NATO's View of 'Fake News' and Related Information Activities

The next session at AoIR 2017 is a panel on 'fake news', and begins with Giorgio Bertolin, from NATO (!). 'Fake news' is also an issue for NATO as a military alliance, of course, and NATO is about to publish a report on the issue that is called Digital Hydra. The focus is on exploring activities across different platforms, examining the role of blogs, and studying 'fake news' sites.

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