APS tip sheet: Capturing election interference

New model analyzes characteristics of the 2016 election and surrounding social media activity

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Credit: Dewhurst et al. Physical Review E, 2020

As the Democractic primaries accelerate and the 2020 presidential election approaches, many Americans still remember Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Scientists have now developed a game theory model able to capture and assess election interference. Dewhurst et al. first created rational game players that were assigned different parameters. For example, in one scenario players’ were programmed to have all-or-nothing attitudes, which lead them to an escalating election interference “arms race.” Then, the researchers introduced a method for developing potential solutions for election interference. By using Russia’s interference in the 2016 US elections as a case study, the researchers tested the model’s ability to accurately capture election interference. The results reflected election activity similar to those found during the 2016 election polls and by social media posts by Russian Twitter fake accounts–both relevant areas of concern for the 2020 election.

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Noncooperative dynamics in election interference

David Rushing Dewhurst, Christopher M. Danforth, and Peter Sheridan Dodds

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