DARPA computer simulations target social media to root-out enemy disinformation and propaganda

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry for new ways of using computer simulations to study how information spreads online via social media as a way to neutralize enemy disinformation and propaganda.

DARPA computer simulations target social media to root-out enemy disinformation and propaganda
DARPA computer simulations target social media to root-out enemy disinformation and propaganda
ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry for new ways of using computer simulations to study how information spreads online via social media as a way to neutralize enemy disinformation and propaganda.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a solicitation Monday (HR001117S0018) for the Computational Simulation of Online Social Behavior (SocialSim) program.

SocialSim is looking for new ways to use computational simulation to study the spread and evolution of information in the online environment -- without pinpointing unique bits of information that could compromise personal privacy.

The ability to simulate the spread and evolution of online information, if accurate and at-scale, could enable a deeper understanding of adversaries’ use of the Internet, DARPA officials say.

Accurate and at-scale simulations of how information spreads and evolves online would support efforts to analyze enemy strategic disinformation campaigns, deliver critical information to local populations during disaster relief operations, and potentially could contribute to other cyber warfare and cyber security missions online.

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SocialSim seeks to develop technologies that can simulate online information spread and evolution at scales representing target populations ranging from thousands to tens of millions; develop ways to provide supporting data to simulation development, testing, and measurement; and develop methods and metrics for assessing the accuracy and scalability of simulations of online information spread and evolution.

Current computational approaches to social and behavioral simulation are limited, DARPA officials explain. Top-down simulations model online behavior by assuming uniform or mostly uniform behavior across that population.

Although this approach can scale to simulate massive populations, it can be inaccurate if there are distinct variations in the characteristics of the population. Bottom-up simulation approaches, on the other hand, say population dynamics are the products of how a diverse population interacts.

Neither of these approaches, unfortunately scale well to represent large populations, DARPA experts say. Instead, the SocialSim program is looking for different approaches, such as one that might combine or extend top-down and bottom-up approaches. This could have the potential for technology breakthroughs that increase accuracy and scalability, researchers say.

The DARPA SocialSim program has three parts: simulation; data provisioning; and simulation test and measurement.

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Simulation will develop technologies that can simulate online information spread and evolution. Data provisioning will develop methods for providing support data for simulation development, test, and evaluation. Simulation test and measurement will evaluate the accuracy and scalability of new simulation technologies.

Companies interested should submit abstracts no later than 16 Feb. 2017, and full proposals no later than 29 March 2017 online via the DARPA BAA Website at https://baa.darpa.mil/my.policy.

Email questions or concerns to the DARPA SocialSim program manager, Jonathan Pfautz, at SocialSim@darpa.mil.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/HR001117S0018/listing.html.

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