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Understanding Disinformation: Learning with Weak Social Supervision

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Social media has become an important means of user-centered information sharing and communications in a gamut of domains, including news consumption, entertainment, marketing, public relations, and many more. The low

Social media has become an important means of user-centered information sharing and communications in a gamut of domains, including news consumption, entertainment, marketing, public relations, and many more. The low cost, easy access, and rapid dissemination of information on social media draws a large audience but also exacerbate the wide propagation of disinformation including fake news, i.e., news with intentionally false information. Disinformation on social media is growing fast in volume and can have detrimental societal effects. Despite the importance of this problem, our understanding of disinformation in social media is still limited. Recent advancements of computational approaches on detecting disinformation and fake news have shown some early promising results. Novel challenges are still abundant due to its complexity, diversity, dynamics, multi-modality, and costs of fact-checking or annotation.

Social media data opens the door to interdisciplinary research and allows one to collectively study large-scale human behaviors otherwise impossible. For example, user engagements over information such as news articles, including posting about, commenting on, or recommending the news on social media, contain abundant rich information. Since social media data is big, incomplete, noisy, unstructured, with abundant social relations, solely relying on user engagements can be sensitive to noisy user feedback. To alleviate the problem of limited labeled data, it is important to combine contents and this new (but weak) type of information as supervision signals, i.e., weak social supervision, to advance fake news detection.

The goal of this dissertation is to understand disinformation by proposing and exploiting weak social supervision for learning with little labeled data and effectively detect disinformation via innovative research and novel computational methods. In particular, I investigate learning with weak social supervision for understanding disinformation with the following computational tasks: bringing the heterogeneous social context as auxiliary information for effective fake news detection; discovering explanations of fake news from social media for explainable fake news detection; modeling multi-source of weak social supervision for early fake news detection; and transferring knowledge across domains with adversarial machine learning for cross-domain fake news detection. The findings of the dissertation significantly expand the boundaries of disinformation research and establish a novel paradigm of learning with weak social supervision that has important implications in broad applications in social media.

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  • 2020