Characterizing Mainstream and Nonmainstream Online News Sources in Social Media

Virginia Tech


This investigation will provide new perspectives to address digital misinformation on Facebook by focusing on the following question: How can we establish differences between mainstream and misleading sources of online news? We will empirically investigate misleading online news sources to develop a deep understanding of their behavior on Facebook along the following threads: topical and writing-style differences from mainstream sources, user engagement distinctions, and the corresponding temporal changes. This inquiry is expected to be transformative. First, through large-scale quantitative explorations, this work stands to contribute to computational social science by laying bare the differences between mainstream and fabricated news sources. Second, by investigating features of online news sources and understanding how people interact with news sources with varying levels of credibility, this work is poised to contribute novel results for improving news literacy among citizens.

Research Team

Principal Investigator

Tanushree Mitra

Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Virginia Tech

  • Bio ▾

    Tanushree Mitra is an assistant professor of computer science at Virginia Tech, where she leads the social computing research group. She and her students study and build large-scale social computing systems to address information disorders in social media platforms. Dr. Mitra is particularly interested in addressing socially relevant problems that are created by social computing technologies and which are often amplified by participation in online social platforms. Her work uses a range of interdisciplinary methods from the fields of data mining, machine learning, natural language processing, and human computer interaction. She received her PhD in computer science from the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. Her research has been recognized through multiple awards and honors, including an NSF-CRII award, an ICTAS Junior Faculty Award, an Honorable Mention at ACM SIGCHI, an IBM PhD fellowship, and GVU Center’s Foley Scholarship for research innovation and potential impact. Many of her academic contributions have received widespread press coverage by notable news outlets. She has also conducted social computing research in the neXus group at Microsoft Research and the Collaborative User Experience group at IBM Research.


Md Momen Bhuiyan

PhD Student, Virginia Tech

  • Bio ▾

    Md Momen Bhuiyan is a PhD student in human-computer interaction in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. His interest primarily lies in addressing issues arising from human interaction in news propagation in social media. Using theories from social science and computational methods from data science, machine learning, and natural language processing, he designs and investigates such social interactions in online communities. He has previously worked under an NSF grant and presented a poster in CSCW. At Virginia Tech, Bhuiyan is advised by Tanushree Mitra and is a member of the Social Computing Lab. Prior to joining this research group, he received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and worked in the software industry in Bangladesh for a year. After graduating from Virginia Tech, Bhuiyan plans to join the industry as a researcher to apply his knowledge in building safer online communities.

Shruti Phadke

PhD Student, Virginia Tech

  • Bio ▾

    Shruti Phadke is a first-year PhD student in the Computer Science Department at Virginia Tech with a master’s in computer engineering. She studies online hate group communication and the influence of conspiratorial thinking on social media. Her focus is on situating already established theories of group behavior from social psychology in the context of new virtual identities that are specific to the online world. Particularly, how such identities transform over various social spaces and how they motivate community participation and engagement. She benefits from a strong computer engineering background, with skills in programming, analysis, and design in her research. She has shown excellence working in both industrial setup through numerous internships and academic settings through research and teaching assistantships. Further, she has been recognized as a J N Tata scholar and summer research fellow by IISC, Banglore. She has also volunteered at conferences such as CSCW and ICWSM as a student volunteer and a reviewer.

Prerna Juneja

PhD Student, Virginia Tech

  • Bio ▾

    Prerna Juneja is a first-year PhD student in the Computer Science Department at Virginia Tech. She is advised by Dr. Tanushree Mitra and is a member of the Social Computing Lab. Her research interests are broadly in social computing, natural language processing, and machine learning. Currently, she is studying content moderation practices on Reddit, with a focus on how rules and norms are enforced by the moderators in the subreddit communities.

    Previously, she worked as a software engineer for three years at Dell EMC in Bengaluru, India, and obtained her master’s from IIIT Delhi. During her master’s, she worked in the Software Analytics Research lab and published papers in COMPSAC and BPI.

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