Qwerty Notes Internship: Facets of Computer Science; The growth in misinformation over social media networks and the change in content moderation over time

Desai, Vraj, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, Computer Science, University of Virginia
Wayland, Kent, Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

This thesis sets out the answer to the question, “How can we overcome the new hurdles coupled with the pandemic?” The proposed STS and technical papers both explain methods on how we can improve the technologies available. The issue of misinformation only increased with the start of the pandemic and finding ways of resolving it became much more complicated. At the same time, online learning became much more difficult, and students had a hard time finding friends in classes to work with virtually. In such an environment, my internship experience served as a technical solution to this huge problem. Both papers spend time going through the current issue and provide feasible solutions to problems that came alive due to the pandemic.
During the pandemic, everyone became extremely active on their personal machines and phones. Latest reports show that 93% of the global population has access to a network and 70% of young people worldwide are using the Internet. Academic and professional lives have transitioned to remote or hybrid lifestyles, and technology is becoming a larger part of society. Consequently, social media and virtual meetings became the norm. Both papers are a discussion of the issues and potential solutions to give the readers an understanding of the current situation with the pandemic socially. The STS research discusses the various methods of content moderation by large social media platforms in the past and the present during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from this paper were meant to outline some significant approaches to limit the spread of misinformation. Many instances were gone over throughout the paper regarding different ways algorithmic and human content moderation have failed and created distrust amongst social media users. Discussing the implications of poor management along with strategies to resolve these issues is another very important segment of this paper. Traversing through the methodologies that have worked in the past versus present practices will allow people to understand which strategies are plausible. Through this paper, we were also able to analyze all forms of misinformation by grouping them into categories based on their contents. Understanding the types of misinformation and its root was key in the analysis for content moderation. Algorithmic content moderation was discussed heavily due to its consistent usage and variability ineffectiveness. It was evident that no matter what approach is taken the government and social media companies should implement new guidelines. Hence, they should consider the scope of their actions and their impact on political, economical, and social opinions.
The technical project worked more on improving online learning during the pandemic. In the technical research, the unique features of the application are discussed. These features made it so much easier for students to study with each other and have a wide array of study guides and notes to refer to. This application showed improvement in learning and a better understanding of the material and made it so accessible to students. Through this mobile and web application, we were able to ask specific questions to communities and receive credible answers, advice, and resources from individuals who are in the same classes or field. Furthermore, this application was very useful in helping students in the same classes and majors learn from each other. This solution received large amounts of feedback and many students agreed that they were learning more and their grades had also improved.
This year's work was extremely fruitful as I was able to learn a lot about how the social and technical climate changed during and after the pandemic. Through my STS paper, I was able to uncover many of the strategies that large social media companies have implemented to prevent the spread of misinformation. However, while doing my research I came to the realization that misinformation is a wicked problem that will not easily be solved by human or automated content moderation. I believe that both research papers were successful and worth the time and effort since they made me gain vast knowledge in computer science and the socio-economic issues surrounding technology. I hope researchers in the future use this paper to uncover approaches to prevent misinformation spread.

BS (Bachelor of Science)

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Technical Advisor: Rosanne Vrugtman

STS Advisor: Kent Wayland

Issued Date: