in·ter·net ob·serv·a·to·ry

[ˈin(t)ərˌnet əbˈzərvəˌtôrē] n. a lab housing infrastructure and human expertise for the study of the internet

Virality Project (Saudi): Saudi Arabia State Media and COVID-19

How has state media in Saudi Arabia discussed COVID-19 spread and response in other countries? To what extent is state media customizing messages via their country-specific outlets? We assess these questions with data from 30 Facebook Pages.

Featured News and Publications

Virality Project (China): Mask Diplomacy – Chinese Narratives in the COVID Era

China has been shipping medical supplies to countries battling the coronavirus pandemic, an effort dubbed “mask diplomacy.” It remains to be seen if China will be able to tailor its messages effectively to win hearts and minds of people around the world.

Russian Dispatches from the June 2020 Twitter Inauthentic Activity Takedown

On June 12, 2020, Twitter removed accounts attributed to Current Policy, “a media website engaging in state-backed political propaganda within Russia.” These accounts were taken down because they violated Twitter’s policy on platform manipulation. Our latest white paper analyzes their activities and motivations.

Digital Street Conflict

A survey of spam, state and covert activities in the United States during domestic unrest.

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Virality Project: Saudi Arabia State Media and COVID-19

Blog / June 24, 2020

COVID-19 has directly or indirectly affected every country, providing an opportunity for comparative analysis of the ways governments use the pandemic to pursue political objectives. SIO has been conducting case studies investigating how various state media apparatuses are responding to the crisis, and the political dimensions of coronavirus misinformation around the world. Here we focus on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, investigating how its state media (and media formally or informally linked to the ruling royal family) have discussed the pandemic.

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Dispatches from the June 2020 Twitter Inauthentic Activity Takedown

Blog / June 18, 2020
On June 12, 2020, Twitter removed 1,152 accounts attributed to Current Policy, “a media website engaging in state-backed political propaganda within Russia.” These accounts were taken down because...

Mask Diplomacy: Chinese Narratives in the COVID Era

Blog / June 16, 2020
China has been shipping medical supplies to countries battling the coronavirus pandemic, an effort dubbed “mask diplomacy.” It remains to be seen if China will be able to tailor its messages...

Analysis of June 2020 Twitter takedowns linked to China, Russia and Turkey

Blog / June 11, 2020
On June 3, 2020 Twitter shared with the Stanford Internet Observatory three distinct takedown datasets from China, Turkey and Russia. In this post and in the attached white papers on the China and...

Virality Project (Russia): Penguins and Protests

Blog / June 9, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world, RT’s English-language branches worked to undermine lockdown measures in Western countries while extolling the Russian and Chinese governments’...

Digital Street Conflict

Blog / June 3, 2020
A survey of spam, state and covert activities in the U.S. during domestic unrest.

Online Misinformation about Vaccines

News / June 3, 2020
In the June 2020 Sabin-Aspen Vaccine Science Policy Report, "Meeting the Challenge of Vaccination Hesitancy," Stanford Internet Observatory research manager Renée DiResta and First Draft...

An Investigation into Domestic Nigerian Social Media Financial Scams

Blog / June 2, 2020
We identify hundreds of scam social media accounts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok targeting individuals in Nigeria. These accounts post on compromised accounts claiming to...

Virality Project (US): Marketing meets Misinformation

Blog / May 26, 2020

Plandemic was one step in a larger process to raise the profile of its subject. SIO had begun to observe an increasing number of posts about Plandemic’s subject, Judy Mikovits, beginning on April 16. For two and a half weeks, we observed a series of cross-platform moments in which Judy Mikovits – a scientist whose work was retracted by journal editors – was recast as an expert whistleblower exposing a vast government cover-up.

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Launching the SIO Virality Project

Blog / May 21, 2020
The Stanford Internet Observatory's Virality Project is a new global study aimed at understanding disinformation dynamics specific to the COVID-19 crisis. As the pandemic became the primary...

Poland Presidential Election 2020: Disinformation Strikes the Military

Blog / May 8, 2020
Amid increasing political turmoil and a potential constitutional crisis, Poland was recently targeted by an elaborate disinformation operation. We studied the tactics used by the attackers and...

Coordinated behavior across 18 pro-Saif Gaddafi Facebook Pages

Blog / April 27, 2020
A cluster of pro-Saif Gaddafi Facebook Pages suspended for inauthentic behavior worked to create the impression that Saif has broad support among Libyans, and tried to undermine the recognized...

Stanford Internet Observatory launches attribution.news with First Draft

Blog / April 20, 2020
Attribution.news provides journalists with tools to effectively cover the origins of both cyber incidents and information operations online. It unpacks some of these complexities through case studies...
WARSAW, POLAND - OCTOBER 13: Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the governing, right-wing Law and Justice political party (PiS), speaks to supporters following the announcement of first results in Polish parliamentary elections on October 13, 2019 in Warsaw, P

Poland Presidential Election 2020: The Pandemic Sows Chaos

Blog / April 10, 2020
With a month to go until the planned election date, neither the final date of the election nor the mechanism for voting has been established. To comply with social distancing, the campaign has moved...

Virality Project (China): Coronavirus Conspiracy Claims

Blog / March 31, 2020

As scientists continue to study how the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Wuhan, China, and around the world, the infection’s early pathways have proven fertile ground for speculation and conspiracy theories. Although COVID-19’s earliest origins may remain uncertain, the story of one volley in the ongoing U.S.-China blame game shows that misinformation about the disease can be traced to specific speculations, distortions, and amplifications. 

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Blurring the lines of media authenticity: Prigozhin-linked group funding Libyan broadcast media

Blog / March 20, 2020

The Stanford Internet Observatory has been investigating new facets to the manipulation of the local media environment in Libya: Russian actors who are known to have previously created and sponsored online news media fronts and associated Facebook pages, now appear to be expanding into similar activities in broadcast media.

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Virality Project (China): Pandemics & Propaganda

Blog / March 19, 2020

The perception of China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been a significant challenge for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the past two months. The CCP has been attempting to control the narrative and deflect blame since the start of the outbreak, both domestically and abroad.

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Polish Presidential Election 2020: Two Months Out

Blog / March 10, 2020

For a broader look at the upcoming Polish election, its stakes and major figures, see our scene-setter.

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Poland: Presidential Election 2020 Scene-Setter

Blog / January 28, 2020

This is the third of a series of pieces the Observatory intends to publish on societies and elections at risk from online disinformation. Our goal is to draw the attention of the media, tech platforms and other academics to these risks and to provide a basic background that could be useful to those who wish to study the information environment in these areas.

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Taiwan Election: Disinformation as a Partisan Issue

Blog / January 21, 2020

On January 11, 2020, Taiwan held its 15th presidential and 10th Legislative Yuan election. Taiwanese citizens soundly re-elected Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, who won 57.1% of the vote over her opponents, Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Han Kuo-yu (who took 38.61%), and the People’s First Party candidate James Soong (4.26%). The DPP also maintained its majority in the Legislative Yuan, though with a slight decrease of a few seats. Voter turnout was high, with almost 74% of eligible voters casting ballots, up from 66% in 2016.

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Taiwan Election: One Day Out

Blog / January 10, 2020

There is only one day left before Taiwan heads to the polls, and researchers, election integrity teams at tech platforms, and press are following the dynamics closely. On January 1st, Taiwan entered into its ten day polling black-out period, a time during which there is a strict ban on agencies and individuals sharing, or citing, any public survey related to a candidate or the election overall.

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Analyzing a Twitter Takedown Originating in Saudi Arabia

Blog / December 23, 2019

On December 20, 2019 Twitter announced the removal of 88,000 accounts managed by Smaat, a digital marketing company based in Saudi Arabia, and attributed thousands of these accounts to involvement in “a significant state-backed information operation”. On December 17 Twitter shared with the Stanford Internet Observatory 32,054,257 tweets from 5,929 randomly sampled accounts. In this report we provide a first analysis of the data.

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Taiwan Election: Three Weeks Out

Blog / December 19, 2019

Last Friday, December 13, 2019, Facebook announced it had removed 118 fan pages, 99 groups, and 51 accounts supporting Taiwan’s KMT presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu. Our team at SIO had been observing several of the Groups removed, including one that was prominently featured in media coverage of the takedown: 2020韓國瑜總統後援會(總會)[“2020 Han Kuo-yu presidential support group (General group)”].

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Bing’s Top Search Results Contain an Alarming Amount of Disinformation

Blog / December 17, 2019

Bing’s importance in the information landscape of the U.S. shouldn’t be overlooked. While its share of the search market in the U.S. might be dwarfed by that of Google, it has steadily increased over the past ten years.

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