About The Workshop
According to the recent report produced by Freedom House (freedomhouse.org), an “independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world”, political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017. Online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year, including the United States (see Freedom House reports). Disinformation tactics contributed to a seventh consecutive year of overall decline in internet freedom, as did a rise in disruptions to mobile internet service and increases in physical and technical attacks on human rights defenders and independent media. A record number of governments have restricted mobile internet service for political or security reasons, often in areas populated by ethnic or religious minorities. The use of “fake news,” automated “bot” accounts, and other manipulation methods gained particular attention in the United States. While the country’s online environment remained generally free, it was troubled by a proliferation of fabricated news articles, divisive partisan vitriol, and aggressive harassment of many journalists, both during and after the presidential election campaign. Venezuela, the Philippines, and Turkey were among 30 countries where governments were found to employ armies of “opinion shapers” to spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media. The advent of Internet as a mass media has had a profound effect on the way political agendas and ideological messages are spread to larger and larger audiences. Nowadays, social media and messaging apps, may be exploited not only by large institutions and governments, but also by small organizations or individuals to reach an audience of unprecedented size. Such strategies have been reported to have been used to influence voters' opinions in the U.S. 2016 elections and the referendum on Brexit. Such alleged consequences have inevitably attracted the attention of the large institutions, government and social media companies and induced them to search for counter measures. The number of governments attempting to control online discussions in this manner has risen each year since Freedom House began systematically tracking the phenomenon in 2009. Various barriers exist to prevent citizens of a large number of countries from accessing information in many countries around the world. Some involve infrastructural and economic barriers, others include violations of user rights such as surveillance, privacy and repercussions for online speech and activities such as imprisonment, extralegal harassment or cyberattacks. Yet another area is limits on content, which involves legal regulations on content, technical filtering and blocking websites, (self-)censorship. Large internet service providers (ISPs) are effective monopolies, and have the power to use NLP techniques to control information flow. Users are suspended or banned, sometimes without human intervention, and with little opportunity for redress. Users react to this by using coded, oblique or metaphorical language, by taking steps to conceal their identity such as the use of multiple accounts, raising questions about who the real originating author of a post actually is. The topic is of great interest to the research community, there have been a special issue of Big Data on computational propaganda, there is an ongoing shared task on Hyperpartisanship and extreme bias, a workshop on fact extraction and verification, and an upcoming hackaton on propaganda identification. The problem of detecting the use and the spreading of propaganda and extreme bias in society has been tackled in other fields such as network analysis, social sciences/data analysis and psychology. On the NLP side, efforts have focused on identifying if a full news article is real, fake, propaganda, or satire, if it is propaganda or not and on the detection of hyperpartisanship. The first NLP4IF workshop took place in Santa Fe, NM on August 20 (https://cbrew.github.io/nlp4if/) in conjunction with COLING 2018. It was dedicated to NLP methods that potentially contribute (either positively or negatively) to the free flow of information on the Internet, or to our understanding of the issues that arise in this area. The workshop was a great success. There were 25+ participants. With the generous support of NSF, we managed to bring three invited speakers and organize a panel on disinformation. We have NSF support for the next year workshop as well. A lot of work presented at the workshop was devoted to censorship in China. We hope the next workshop will attract researchers who work on a variety of topics that contribute to the free flow of information on the Internet.
The workshop is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, award No. #1828199 Students can apply for travel grants. For more information, please, contact Anna Feldman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The topics of interest include (but are not limited) to the following:
We hope that our workshop will have a transformative impact on society by getting closer to achieving Internet freedom in countries where accessing and sharing of information are strictly controlled by censorship.
Invited talk: Jennifer Pan (Stanford University): How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument slides
Invited talk: Jed Crandall (University of New Mexico): How to Talk Dirty and Influence Machines slides
Invited Talk: Nancy Watzman (Dot Connector Studio): What do journalists really want from NLP researchers? How to help build trust in media and democracy by helping journalists make sense of big data slides
Creative Language Encoding under Censorship (Heng Ji and Kevin Knight) [slides available upon request]By Heng Ji
Panel: NLP and Disinformation (Moderator: Chris Brew; Panelists: Jed Crandall, Heng Ji, Veronica Perez-Rosas, Nancy Watzman)
Dr. Jennifer Pan (Stanford University, CA)
Dr. Jedidiah Crandall (University of New Mexico)
Nancy Watzman (Dot Connector Studio)
Managing Editor, Television Archive
Asia World Expo
Airport Expo Blvd, Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong
The NLP4IF Workshop is held in conjunction Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing 2019 that will take place in Hong Kong. EMNLP-IJCNLP 2019 will be held at the Asia World Expo from November 3rd through the 7th 2019
Workshop submission deadline: May 25, 2018 notification: June 20, 2018 camera-ready submission deadline: June 30, 2018 workshop date: August 20, 2018.