Carnegie Mellon University


December 21, 2017

CMU Researchers Receive DARPA Grant to Forecast the Flow of Information Online

By Shilo Rea

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has allocated more than $6.7 million to a team of researchers, including three from Carnegie Mellon University, to fund research into improving the understanding of how social information travels and transforms online.

The grant is one of the largest federally funded projects of its kind. It comes at a time when, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center Study, a majority of U.S. adults rely on social media as their primary news source. This means that when natural or man-made disasters strike, the quality of information shared online and how it spreads is critical—the ability of official evacuation orders to break through the noise of inaccurate or intentionally misleading posts could be a matter of literal life-and-death. 

Christian Lebiere, a research psychologist in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is the principal investigator for the CMU project. Additionally, Carnegie Mellon’s Coty Gonzalez, research professor of social and decision sciences, and David Plaut, professor of psychology, will work with experts in computer science, cognitive science, economics and sociology from Virginia Tech, Stanford, Claremont, Duke, Wisconsin, USC and the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition on “Homo SocioNeticus,” a key component of DARPA’s new SocialSim Program.

“Being able to accurately and reliably predict the spread of information online under a wide range of conditions requires a principled account of the decision-making of large groups and its impact on social network dynamics. CMU brings a long tradition of computational modeling of human cognition using approaches ranging from neural networks to cognitive architectures,” Lebiere said.