COSMOS began studying election-related social media content in 2019. To examine the possible use of a hostile online media campaign orchestrated to influence the 2019 Canadian Federal election, researchers used an in-house application called YouTubeTracker to collect more than 6,000 videos and more than one million comments. They combined multiple social media analysis techniques, social cyber forensic methods, content analysis, and mathematical-sociological constructs to determine whether online influence campaigns were orchestrated on YouTube. 

“We have been extending our focus from blogs and Twitter to YouTube because the popular and interactive video sharing platform with more than one billion users has become a tool to spread disinformation and propaganda by a variety of hostile actors.” stated Katrin Galeano, PhD fellow and lead of the Canadian election project. Their findings were published in the latest edition of ‘The Journal of Future Conflict’, an online, open-access, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal of social science research and theory on political violence published by the Queen’s University Department of Psychology in cooperation with the Centre for Security, Armed Forces and Society (CSAFS) at the Department of Politics of the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada, the Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) Education and Research Centre (ERC) as well as with support from Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC).

“This work presents novel scientific methodologies to examine influence operations conducted on social media platforms such as YouTube and reveal key malicious actors, groups, their tactics, and attack vectors,” said Dr. Nitin Agarwal, Director of COSMOS and a co-author of the study. “We also demonstrate the need for more research in the social cybersecurity domain to not only shore up our defenses but also develop proactive strategies to prevent such attacks in the first place.”

The article written by Katrin Kania Galeano, Rick Galeano, Esther Mead, Billy Spann, Joseph Kready, and Nitin Agarwal has been published online at https://www.queensu.ca/psychology/research/journal-future-conflict/journal-future-conflict-issue-02-fall-2020

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