It has been a long and lively ride with the Observatory on Social Media (OSoMe). That’s why IUNI is so excited to remain a crucial collaborator in OSoMe’s expansion into a research center at Indiana University Bloomington.
OSoMe was awarded $6 million to create the research center, which expands on the current project and will study the dissemination of information and misinformation online, as well as educate journalists, students, and others.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will fund the center with a $3 million grant and IU will award an additional $3 million.
The research center, which is a collaboration between IUNI, the IU School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, and The Media School, will also play a role in a future IUB data journalism program.
Our OSoME to-do list not only includes helping launch a new tool called Botslayer, but also expanding and rebuilding the current OSoMe server base we host into a cloud-based infrastructure. We’re also hoping the new research center will help us expand OSoMe’s capabilities past Twitter data to include YouTube, Reddit, and other available datasets.
Filippo Menczer (IUB Informatics) is a principal investigator for OSoMe and will serve as the center’s director. He has been using the data collected from these tools to study the spread of information and misinformation across social media and to educate others on the spread and its impact.
IUNI Director of Information Technology Valentin Pentchev and his team have been collaborating with the project since early 2015. Pentchev will serve as the research center’s director of information technology.
OSoMe & IUNI
Working alongside Menczer’s students and researchers, IUNI has contributed to the development of the tools in OSoMe’s portfolio and provided the infrastructure for data hosting, which is also aided by the Digital Science Center and its director, Geoffrey Fox.
IUNI began hosting OSoMe tools in 2016, soon after our senior systems developer, Chathuri Peli Kankanamalage, rebuilt the entire cluster from scratch due to a catastrophic hardware failure. Working closely with CNetS graduate students and postdocs, IUNI’s developers have been the driving force behind the core OSoMe tools, which include Trends, Networks, and Movies, as well as the Enhanced Data portal available only to researchers from IU.
For almost every OSoMe tool that now makes up the broader toolbox, Kankanamalage led the way in back-end development and our lead software engineer, Ben Serrette, helped build the front end. Serrette also created the visualizations that appear in tools like Hoaxy and designed the framework for the latest addition to the OSoMe toolbox: BotSlayer.
BotSlayer, funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, will help identify bot campaigns before they develop. IUNI Associate Full Stack Developer Marc McCarty and Menczer’s team have been hard at work developing BotSlayer since McCarty joined IUNI in March.
Former IUNI research scientist Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia (now at the University of South Florida) was also an important player in OSoMe since its inception.
After years of investing our time and expertise in OSoMe, the major investments from Knight Foundation and IU serve as a reminder to IUNI that a project we’ve helped develop is leading the way in studying the spread of information on social media and educating others on how to identify misinformation in an increasingly online world.