By Sherry DiBari

Old Dominion University researchers will soon be studying the role of cybersecurity in curbing the spread of disinformation and misinformation.

ODU professors Sachin Shetty and Jian Wu will lead two Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI)-funded transdisciplinary projects. In a third project, ODU's Saltuk Karahan, instructor of political science and cybersecurity advisor in ODU's Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research, and Hongyi Wu, director of ODU's School of Cybersecurity, will work with principal investigator Hamdi Kavak of George Mason University.

In total, CCI funded seven projects for $450,000.

"Misinformation and disinformation spreads quickly in our connected society and prevents people from making decisions based on accurate information," said Luiz DaSilva, CCI executive director. "We want to study how cybersecurity can help control the proliferation of these misinformation campaigns. Researchers are applying artificial intelligence techniques to detect the spread of misinformation through social media, to provide tools for governments and individuals to counteract disinformation campaigns and to analyze how disinformation can impact connected devices and vehicles."

Researchers from ODU, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Tidewater Community College and the University of Virginia are collaborating on the projects.

The researchers represent a wide range of disciplines such as engineering, computer science, philosophy and religious studies, policy and government, political science, geography and psychology.

Shetty, who holds dual appointments as executive director of the Center for Secure & Intelligent Critical Systems at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) and professor in the Department of Computational Modeling and Simulation Engineering, will work with ODU's Teresa Kouri Kissel, assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies, to investigate the effectiveness of the question-under-discussion framework to analyze social media communication between security researchers and/or adversaries and report messages that indicate misinformation.

Jian Wu, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, will work with ODU's Jeremiah Still, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, and Jian Li, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Their project's goal is to reveal the effectiveness of using scientific literature as a weapon to debunk scientific misinformation and disinformation and to eventually curb their spread across society.

Kavak, Karahan and Hongyi Wu, along with Tidewater Community College's Kimberly Perez, will use artificial intelligence to investigate misinformation/disinformation campaigns, and how they may generate anti-U.S. public perception in other countries.

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