Phil Howard INFORMATION · DISINFORMATION · DEMOCRACY

Research

I study civic engagement and the implications of digital media for the conduct of contemporary citizenship. My contribution has been to treat information and communication technologies as a means of structuring political culture, not simply as tools for distributing news content or entertainment. Political culture includes not just abstract values and ideologies. It is also defined by the material aspects of information infrastructure that provide concrete schema for patterning our values and ideologies and, in turn, our voting behavior and public policy opinions.  You can read about the teams of staff, faculty and students I have built and managed, the organizations that fund my research, and the institutional affiliations that support projects. These projects have advanced research in important ways, and some of the most high-impact findings have been picked up in the news.

In comparative communication research, my goal is to examine media systems, technology diffusion patterns, the political economy of news, journalism cultures, and technology and telecommunications policy (including relevant engineering standards and intellectual property law).

I argue that information infrastructure is politics, yet rarely are engineering standards and telecommunications policies treated as culturally significant. I demonstrate that through information infrastructure, some young democracies have become more entrenched and durable; some authoritarian regimes have made significant transitions towards democratic institutions and practices; and others have become less authoritarian, hybrid regimes where information technologies support the work of particular actors such as state, political parties, journalists, or civil society groups. My approach to the study of technology cultures involves a range of tools as appropriate for specific research questions: overseas fieldwork has allowed me learn about the micro processes of telecommunications policy formation and learning among civil society leaders in authoritarian regimes; comparative methods have allowed me to identify causal connections between technology diffusion and political outcomes across countries; large-N time series analysis have enabled me to explain variation in political outcomes around the world. Altogether, having a diverse suite of tools has allowed me to be a researcher whose questions drive methodological choices, rather than the reverse.

I lead a network of researchers in cross-disciplinary social science to explain patterns of technology diffusion, public opinion, and political change.  We regularly use a range of cutting edge methods, including big data analysis, event data sets, and fuzzy logic models.  But we always ground our research with the powerful stories that come from interviews and participant observation that really bring in a punch line.  Our research both advances basic social science theory and helps explain the evolution of current events.

Data memo

Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation

Cyber troops are government, military or political party teams committed to manipulating public opinion over social[...]

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Topics Hackers Social Media

Data set · MAY 22

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Topics Arab Spring Artificial Intelligence Astroturf

Working paper

Global Attitudes Towards AI, Machine Learning & Automated Decision Making

Implications for Involving Artificial Intelligence in Public Service and Good Governance How do people perceive the[...]

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Topics Computational Social Science

Academic article

“Anything that Causes Chaos”: The Organizational Behavior of Russia Today (RT)

RT (formerly, Russia Today) is one of the most important organizations in the global political economy[...]

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Topics Political Economy of Media

Academic article

Predicting Engagement with the Internet Research Agency’s Facebook and Instagram Campaigns around the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

The Russian Internet Research Agency’s (IRA) online interference campaign in the 2016 U.S. presidential election represents[...]

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Topics Social Media

Academic article

What to expect when you’re expecting robots: Futures, expectations, and pseudo-artificial general intelligence in UK news

Drawing on scholarship in journalism studies and the sociology of expectations, this article demonstrates how news[...]

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Topics Computational Propaganda

Academic article

Balancing Product Reviews, Traffic Targets, and Industry Criticism: UK Technology Journalism in Practice

Despite growing expectations that technology journalists serve as critical watchdogs of the technology industry, technology journalism[...]

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Topics Computational Social Science

Academic article

Sourcing and Automation of Political News and Information over Social Media in the United States, 2016-2018

Social media is an important source of news and information in the United States. But during[...]

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Topics Computational Propaganda Social Media

Academic article

Sourcing and Automation of Political News and Information During Three European Elections

Voters increasingly rely on social media for news and information about politics. But increasingly, social media[...]

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Topics Computational Propaganda Elections Governance Social Media

Data memo

News and Political Information Consumption in Brazil: Mapping the 2018 Brazilian Presidential Election on Twitter

In Brazil, there are rising concerns over computational propaganda and the political polarization it may cause.[...]

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Topics Elections Governance Social Media

Data memo

News and Political Information Consumption in Sweden: Mapping the 2018 Swedish General Election on Twitter

In Sweden, concerns over misinformation and computational propaganda and their effect on the democratic process are[...]

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Topics Elections Social Media

Working paper

Challenging Truth and Trust: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation

 The manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms has emerged as a critical threat to[...]

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Topics Governance Social Media

Academic articleData memo

News and Political Information Consumption in Mexico: Mapping the 2018 Mexican Presidential Election on Twitter and Facebook

In Mexico, there are rising concerns over computational propaganda and the political polarization it may cause.[...]

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Topics Elections Governance Social Media

Academic article

Chinese computational propaganda: automation, algorithms and the manipulation of information about Chinese politics on Twitter and Weibo

A 2016 review of literature about automation, algorithms and politics identified China as the foremost area[...]

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Topics Computational Propaganda Social Media

Data memo

Polarization, Partisanship and Junk News Consumption over Social Media in the US

What kinds of social media users read junk news? We examine the distribution of the most[...]

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Topics Governance Social Media

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