Computational Methods to Understand and Mitigate Online Aggression

Note: Presentation times are in Pacific Standard Time (PST).

Wednesday, February 03, 2021 - 11:20 am11:50 am

Gianluca Stringhini, Boston University


Online hate on social media has become a serious problem. Aggression is often not the act of single individuals, but rather the result of coordinated activity between like-minded people who gather on polarized online communities, identify suitable targets, and carry out their attacks. Studying this phenomenon is hard, partly because it is not a purely technical problem, and partly because this malicious activity unfolds across multiple online services but the research community currently lacks effective tools to keep track of information that spans multiple platforms.

In this talk, I will present our research on studying the modus operandi of attackers that orchestrate and execute coordinated aggression attacks on social media. I will present two case studies, which are the results of an analysis of billions of social media posts using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative analysis. First, I will describe coordinated hate attacks against the authors of YouTube videos. Second, I will analyze Zoom bombing attacks, in which miscreants organize to disrupt those online meetings that have become central to our professional and personal lives. As part of this study, we find that most Zoom bombing meetings are called by insiders who ask for attackers to disrupt their own meetings (for example online lectures). Finally, I will discuss challenges in developing countermeasures against these phenomena, ranging from the need to protect from attacks in the presence of malicious insiders to the potential unintended consequences of suspending offending accounts on social media, which might result in pushing users to more extreme and unmoderated online communities.

Gianluca Stringhini, Boston University

Gianluca Stringhini is an assistant professor in the ECE Department at Boston University. Gianluca works in the area of data-driven security, analyzing large datasets to better understand complex malicious online operations and developing mitigation techniques to fight them. He was awarded multiple awards including an NSF CAREER Award in 2020 and a Facebook Secure the Internet Grant in 2018, and his research won multiple Best Paper Awards, including one at IMC 2018. He has published in top security conferences such as CCS, NDSS, and USENIX Security, as well as top measurement and Web conferences such as IMC, ICWSM, and WWW.

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@conference {264146,
author = {Gianluca Stringhini},
title = {Computational Methods to Understand and Mitigate Online Aggression},
year = {2021},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = feb,

Presentation Video