The Harvard Data Science (HDSI) Public Service Graduate Fellowship
Manana Hakobyan (MSDS ‘22, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) is the CEO and co-founder of DataPoint Armenia, at which she contributed research in identifying misinformation and hate speech from Twitter data during the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. This case study, the most comprehensive analysis specifically on astroturfing to date, focused on investigating patriotic astroturfing during the war from a data science perspective.
The Harvard Data Science Initiative (HDSI) Public Service Data Science Graduate Fellowship supports Master’s students in Harvard’s data science programs (Biomedical Informatics, Health Data Science, Data Science) who want to explore career paths at not-for-profit and public sector organizations through a summer internship.
The report covers the themes, coordinated information campaigns, and primary tactics used by Armenian and Azeri Twitter users to engage in social media narrative warfare following September 2020. Hakobyan and her team found several possible violations of Twitter’s Platform Manipulation and Spam Policy and Abuse Behavior Policy by both pro-Azerbaijani and pro-Armenian users. Their analysis of common tweet behaviors also discovered excessive retweeting, “copy-pasta” campaigning, and repeated targeting of celebrities.
In addition, Hakobyan’s team observed hate speech and comparisons drawn to Armenian Genocide from pro-Azerbaijani users – a gross violation of Twitter’s Abusive Behavior Policy. Although Twitter has previously stated that accounts violating this policy would be removed, many tweets promoting these hateful sentiments still in exist on the platform. Hakobyan cites Twitter’s lack of moderation of these posts as irresponsible and dangerous, as these this type of language has the “potential to precipitate violent extremism within its user base.”
The purpose of this project is to teach people how to protect themselves from misinformation. Hakobyan also calls on Twitter to conduct its own internal investigation into pro-Azerbaijani tweets disseminated during the war and to improve its regulation of the region’s posts during periods of conflict.
The HDSI Public Service Data Science Fellowship
The HDSI (Harvard Data Science Initiative) Public Service Data Science Graduate Fellowship supports Master’s students in Harvard’s data science programs (Biomedical Informatics (HMS), Health Data Science (HSPH), Data Science (SEAS)) who want to explore career paths at not-for-profit and public sector organizations through a summer internship.
The #fellowship includes a $10,000 stipend to support an unpaid #summer 2022 #internship at a not-for-profit or public sector organization that either (a) applies data science to solve social challenges, or (b) advocates for responsible data science. The stipend is intended to support living expenses during the summer and may not be used for tuition.
Fellows are also expected to promote public service #data science at #Harvard, which will include documenting their experience in the fellowship through a blog post or short report to the HDSI (previous winners Rachel Moon and Pradeep Mangalath); and may include community-building activities such as:
Facilitating a public service data science reading group
Participating on panels and in discussions/talks
Serving as a resource to other students interested in public service and data science