Sharing a draft of a conceptual model I’m working on to explain how online social networks, algorithms, and human action are all mutually shaping. Yes, people choose who to follow and that shapes what they see, but those choices are shaped by the algorithms.
This builds from a “structuration” approach to understanding the mutual shaping of social structures, human action, & technology. I was inspired by @sinanaral’s comments last week at the Social Media summit discussing this relationship b/w structure and agency in online ads.
@sinanaral And it emerges from a conversation w/ @alexstamos about the role of our social networks in shaping what we see (and what we do) online. It’s not networks OR algorithms. It’s BOTH. And they work in interaction with each other, and human behavior.
@sinanaral @alexstamos My rough draft isn’t complete. It's missing several elements (other social structures like social norms) as well as how actions from others outside of one’s social network feed the algorithms as well. And I still don’t know what that last dotted line is. I’m open to input!
@sinanaral @alexstamos In the class I’m teaching this week (Foundations of HCI) we’ve been talking about both social networks and algorithmic feeds in social media … so this emerges from thinking about those as well.
@sinanaral @alexstamos And it provides a visual complement to the model my colleagues and I presented in our 2019 paper about disinformation as collaborative work (and how it shapes online systems in various ways): faculty.washington.edu/kstarbi/Disinf…

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More from @katestarbird

28 Apr
This domain (SouthFront) shows up a lot when we look at Russia’s activity w/in disinformation campaigns outside the US context — e.g. the campaign targeting the “White Helmets” in Syria. It’s one of an array of small propaganda sites they use to spread strategic narratives.
Southfront shows up as a (low-medium frequency) tweeted domain in Twitter conversations around the downing of MH17, criticism of NATO (~2017), and discourse around Syria (2017-2018). It also appears in early Qanon discourse (as a tweeted domain in tweets w/ #QAnon in them).
There are many similar websites that consistently pump out Russia’s strategic narratives. Here’s an OLD snapshot of domain co-sharing network (domains that were shared by the same user are linked) from MH17. Not all shared disinfo, but many did. Shows some now-familiar patterns:
Read 4 tweets
26 Apr
We (researchers) have been stressing the integration of coordinated & organic activity in the spread of online disinformation for a few years now. Facebook’s internal report (on platform use going into Jan 6) highlights the need for policy to address this: buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanma…
"A policy of coordinated authentic harm needs a broader definition of coordination to handle network or movement level harms and the interplay between organic and inorganic growth.” Coordination can be explicit (you do this, I do that) or implicit (like a flock of birds).
A lot of online organizing involves a small amount of explicit coordination that structures a large amount of implicit coordination. Here’s a 2012 paper, describing how groups of volunteers organize (largely through implicit coordination) during disasters: faculty.washington.edu/kstarbi/CHI201…
Read 4 tweets
9 Apr
Re-posting this for the morning crowd. My former PhD student, Tom Wilson, published his dissertation documenting the online disinformation campaign targeting the White Helmets (a humanitarian response organization) in Syria.
In addition to their rescue/response activities, the White Helmets provided documentation of war crimes (including chemical weapons attacks) by Assad and his Russian allies. The campaign against them sought to confuse Western audiences & delegitimize evidence of war crimes.
Dr Wilson’s work carefully documented several of the online dimensions of that campaign — including the network structure of online influencers and grey propaganda websites that consistently spread anti-White Helmets propaganda.
Read 5 tweets
21 Mar
This article really captures my sentiments (as a former player) about the equity issues with the NCAA women’s bball tourney (compared to the men’s)... it’s just exhausting to still be dealing with these slights, both big and small, after all these years. washingtonpost.com/sports/2021/03…
One story. It’s 1992. I’m on a recruiting trip to a school with competitive academics and an up-and-coming women’s bball program. They also have a top men’s bball program, and the men’s coach (a bball luminary) meets w/ women’s bball recruits as part of the recruiting process...
He decides to use academics as the hook, explaining to me (a 16-year-old girl) that I needed to prioritize academics (and attend their top-20 school), because there would never be professional opportunities for women in my sport.
Read 9 tweets
6 Mar
The “defense” of girls sports against trans folks by the same people who 20 years ago were bashing Title IX because it was “taking opportunities away” from mediocre boys is transparently insincere. These folks don’t care about girls sports —only about scoring political points.
As a former athlete, I am 100% supportive of including trans girls in girls sports.
Story. I’m old and rickety now, but when I was a kid, I was an athlete. A pretty darn good one. And my dad was my biggest fan. He would drive me to bball practices halfway across the state of TN and yell “burn, Katie, burn” as I sprinted down the soccer field.
Read 10 tweets
27 Feb
Just read two long articles about successful disinformation campaigns against James Le Mesurier and the White Helmets (international, context: Syria) and @MichaelDTubbs (hyper local, Stockton, CA). Super depressing. I think I’m going to close my eyes and go back to bed.
@MichaelDTubbs Alright, I’m up and back to fighting against this BS. Our @2020Partnership report on Mis/Disinformation in the 2020 election is due out this coming week… and we’ve got some work to do putting the finishing touches on that.
@MichaelDTubbs @2020Partnership BBC article on James Le Mesurier and the White Helmets: bbc.com/news/stories-5…
Read 4 tweets

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