COSMOS and Arkansas Partner to Counter Plague of COVID-19 Misinformation

ARA Fellow Dr. Nitin Agarwal Puts Science on the Frontlines

Anyone monitoring the nation’s daily COVID-19 updates know just how deadly the virus is and how rapidly it spreads. However, another dangerous contagion is infecting communities worldwide right alongside COVID-19, and it’s even more difficult to contain.

“We call it an ‘infodemic’ which is in many ways more dangerous than COVID-19,” explains Dr. Nitin Agarwal, Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) Fellow and Distinguished Professor of Information Science at UA Little Rock. “The cases of misinformation about the virus are rising exponentially from the dark corners of the web.”

Dr. Agarwal is Director of The Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies, or COSMOS. He and his team of cosmographers study social media and online behavior to combat threats to social good, ranging from safeguarding elections to countering terrorism. The work of COSMOS is now being used to put down this current threat of harmful misinformation regarding the pandemic.

The range of misinformation is expansive. “Fake cures. Medical equipment scams. Anti-foreign sentiment. Basically, anything designed to sow division and unravel the fabric of our society,” says Dr. Agarwal. “This environment of high-anxiety makes it easy for us to fall prey to fake news.”

COSMOS is partnering with the Arkansas Office of the Attorney General to develop a website that can help people identify, understand, and even report fake news regarding COVID-19. The technology is supported by the work COSMOS has completed for agencies like the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, DARPA, and the National Science Foundation among many others. Still, the new website requires new methodology to combat the problem at hand.

“We’re working night and day because we really wanted to do something to help Arkansas,” says Dr. Agarwal. “The Arkansas Research Alliance helped put us in touch with the Attorney General, and now we believe this can be a resource used nationally, or even globally.”

Dr. Agarwal also credits the ARA Fellows grant with helping him fund projects dealing with unexpected events like COVID-19.

“We’re working with the Arkansas Attorney General on a volunteer basis,” says Dr. Agarwal. “The ARA funds made that possible.”

The website, cosmos.ualr.edu/covid-19, is an essential tool to countering the spread of misinformation, which too often takes fraudulent advantage the anxiety associated with the virus. “This pandemic has created an unprecedented  level of uncertainty and I will not tolerate bad actors seeking to leverage this crisis to fill their pocketbooks,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The goal with this partnership is to make sure we are quickly identifying fake websites that are spreading misinformation with the purpose of stealing from Arkansans.”

Dr. Agarwal wants to remind people that news spreads fast online – the weirder the faster. “The only way to expose these dark characters on the web is to shine a light on them. Our mission is to shine that light.”

 

 

Arkansas Research Alliance Names Daryl Brown to Board of Trustees

ARA welcomes MISO Executive Director to the Board

Conway, AR, April 3, 2020 – The Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) announced today that Daryl Brown, Executive Director, External Affairs South Region at Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), has joined the ARA Board of Trustees. Mr. Brown, a graduate of Mississippi State University and a 17-year veteran of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, begins his service immediately.

“With a consistent history of support for ARA, MISO has shown just how committed the company is to making research a priority in Arkansas,” says ARA President and CEO Jerry Adams. Brown replaces outgoing MISO Board Member Todd Hillman.

“I am honored to join my esteemed colleagues on the Arkansas Research Alliance board of trustees,” says Mr. Brown. “With a background in innovation, I passionately support the organization’s fundamental belief that research matters. I look forward to working with ARA.”

The ARA Board of Trustees is comprised of Arkansas business leaders and the chancellor from each of the state’s five major research universities. Mr. Brown is a recent addition to MISO’s executive team. Previously, Brown was the director of innovation for both Current powered by GE and Hitachi Social Innovation Business. In addition, he has more than 20 years of experience as an executive at Southern Company.

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About Arkansas Research Alliance

Founded in 2008, Arkansas Research Alliance is dedicated to elevating a fundamental belief: Research Matters. Operating as a public-private partnership, ARA invests in research that stimulates innovation, encourages collaboration, and strengthens economic opportunity.

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The Takeaways

  • Arkansas Research Alliance announces a new Board of Trustees member
  • Executive Director, External Affairs South Region at Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO)
  • The Arkansas Research Alliance Board of Trustees is comprised of many of the state’s high-profile corporate leaders and the chancellor from each of the state’s top research universities
  • Founded in 2008, Arkansas Research Alliance elevates the role of research in Arkansas and its impact on the state’s economy
  • Arkansas Research Alliance is led by former Acxiom executive Jerry Adams
  • The ARA Board of Trustees is comprised of 20 leaders from Arkansas’ business and academic communities:\

Sonja Yates Hubbard (Chairperson), Principal, The Yates Group

Robert Shoptaw (Treasurer), Retired CEO, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield

Dr. Laurence Alexander, Chancellor, UA at Pine Bluff

Dr. Kelly Damphousse, Chancellor, Arkansas State University

Dr. Christina Drale, Chancellor (Interim), UA Little Rock

Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor, UAMS

 

(Board of Trustees cont. next page))

 

 

 

 

Dr. Joseph Steinmetz, Chancellor, University of Arkansas

Ritter Arnold, Executive VP External Affairs, E. Ritter & Co.

Daryl Brown, Executive Director, MISO

Andrew Clyde, President & CEO, Murphy USA Inc.

Ronnie Dedman, President, AT&T Arkansas

Laura R. Landreaux, President & CEO, Entergy Arkansas, Inc.

Gaylon Lawrence, The Lawrence Group

Drew May, Chief Client Officer, Acxiom

Tommy May, Chairman & CEO, Simmons First Foundation

Charles Nabholz, Chairman Emeritus, The Nabholz Group

David Peacock, President, Hytrol Conveyor Co.

Reynie Rutledge, President, First Security Bank

Dan Williams, Retired CEO, Garver

Michelle Wolfe, VP of Human Services, Walmart