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Yang Wins NFS Grant to Study Social Media Usage and Rumors Related to Disasters

Published September 26, 2017

On September 19th, 2017, Dr. Janet Yang was awarded a prestigious grant through the National Science Foundation entitled RAPID: Identification of Key Dynamics for Rumor Spread and Control during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma for $175,000. Forms of social media are a growing in use among the public, and the community has become dependent on this type of media as their main source of infromation when it comes to emergency situations such as hurricanes and floods. During the most recent hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, the immediate spread of information regarding these disasters resulted in a great deal of misinformation to the public. Prompt sharing features of social media often make fabricated storeis difficult to manage, as information from official sources to debunk rumors arrives too late. 

The project will allow for the collection and analysis of data related to how rumors were spread during Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, and how their message was controlled to the public. The main objectives of the project are to study 1) the spread of fabricated stories on social media sites; 2) what effective debunking networks establish; and 3) how the community deals with risk information that stipulate subsequent communication behaviors such as the sharing and proccessing of information. 

Using social network analysis, content analysis, surveys, interviews, optimiztion and simulation, the study will identify rumor response behaviors of social media users during disasters and the motivations behind social media users' risk communication behaviors.