ABOUT

Hi. I'm Rolf
I'm a researcher, specializing in coding and programming Russian media digital data collection data visualization automated content analysis

Welcome to my Academic profile

BIO

ABOUT ME

I work on a five-year Leverhulme-funded project 'Conspiracy and Democracy'. Working on the internet strand of the Project, I specialise in creating systems for automated retrieval, archiving, and visualisation of large datasets. This framework allows near real-time analysis of the spread of rumour and misinformation. I employ statistical methods to identify major patterns in big datasets, and use interactive visualisations to present complex evidence in an accessible manner.

News

Melbourne Fellowship

January - February 2016: a short project at Melbourne University, hosted by Julie Fedor on her DECRA-funded project 'Memory and Authoritarianism'. We will examine how the collapse of the USSR is remembered and narrated in Russia, with a particular focus on conspiracy theories circulating in different media and their evolution over time. Drawing upon a large volume of Russian-language data, the project sets out to identify and analyze conspiracy theories explaining the Soviet collapse, and to trace how they spread on the Internet.

New publication: AUGUST 1991 AND THE MEMORY OF COMMUNISM IN RUSSIA

HOBBIES

INTERESTS

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CV

  • ACADEMIC AND PROFESSIONAL POSITIONS
  • Jan 2016
    Feb 2016
    MELBOURNE, AU

    SHORT-TERM VISITING FELLOW

    UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE, MEMORY AND AUTHORITARIANISM (Early Career Collaborative Research Project)

    Two-month visiting fellowship. Working with Dr Julie Fedor I will examine how the collapse of the USSR is remembered and narrated in Russia, with a particular focus on conspiracy theories circulating in different media and their evolution over time. Drawing upon a large volume of Russian-language data, the project sets out to identify and analyze conspiracy theories explaining the Soviet collapse, and to trace how they spread on the Internet.
  • Dec 2017
    2014
    CAMBRIDGE, UK

    RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

    UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE, CENTRE FOR RESEARCH IN THE ARTS, SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES

    Conspiracy and Democracy: History, Political Theory and Internet Research is a five-year Leverhulme-funded project, led by Richard Evans, John Naughton and David Runciman.
  • EDUCATION
  • 2014
    2011
    CAMBRIDGE, UK

    SLAVONIC STUDIES - PHD

    UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE, GIRTON COLEGE

    Core member of the Memory at War Project, a major international interdisciplinary collaborative research project involving five European partners.
    PhD funded by an AHRC grant.
    Thesis: Playing for Time: The Past in Russian Media Coverage (2003-13).
  • 2011
    2009
    OXFORD, UK

    RUSSIAN AND EAST EUROPEAN STUDIES - MPHIL

    UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, ST ANTYONY'S COLLEGE

    Dissertation: When and for what Reason are Historical Events Invoked in Political Discourse: the Example of Katyń
  • 2009
    2005
    DUBLIN, IE

    RUSSIAN AND HISTORY - BA HONS

    TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN

    Two-subject moderatorship majoring in Russian. Also studied European history and Polish language and literature.
    Awarded gold medal
    Elected scholar
    Six other awards and prizes
    Dissertation: Richard Pipes as a Figure of Authority in the Russian Press

PUBLICATIONS

2013

Detecting Memory Events

East European Memory Studies, 2013:May, pp: 9--14

The Memory at War project introduced the concept of the memory event as a tool for analysing the dynamics of cultural memory. A memory event has been defined as `a rediscovery of the past that creates a rupture with its accepted cultural meaning' (Etkind 2010). What are the conceptual challenges posed by this concept, and how might we go about applying it in our research? In this article I [...more...]

Article Full TextRolf Fredheim

Detecting Memory Events

Rolf Fredheim

The Memory at War project introduced the concept of the memory event as a tool for analysing the dynamics of cultural memory. A memory event has been defined as `a rediscovery of the past that creates a rupture with its accepted cultural meaning' (Etkind 2010). What are the conceptual challenges posed by this concept, and how might we go about applying it in our research? In this article I explore some of these questions via a brief case study of how the concept of the memory event might be operationalised as part of statistical models of the news cycle, drawing on the example of media representations of the August 1991 Putsch. More generally, this illustrates how clear criteria may help to counter researcher bias in the humanities

ArticleFull Text
2015

Filtering Foreign Media Content: How Russian News Agencies Repurpose Western News Reporting

Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society, 2015:1, pp: 37--82

During the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, the Kremlin has limited and distorted the substance of Western media reports. State-run web portals dedicated to translating the foreign press claim to mirror Western reporting about Russia. In this article, I argue these portals filter the foreign press, selecting articles for translation that confirm and reinforce a stereotype of Western reporting about [...more...]

Article Full TextPeer ReviewedRolf Fredheim

Filtering Foreign Media Content: How Russian News Agencies Repurpose Western News Reporting

Rolf Fredheim

During the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, the Kremlin has limited and distorted the substance of Western media reports. State-run web portals dedicated to translating the foreign press claim to mirror Western reporting about Russia. In this article, I argue these portals filter the foreign press, selecting articles for translation that confirm and reinforce a stereotype of Western reporting about Russia as tendentious, opinionated, and irrationally hostile. I analyse output from two sites: RiaNovosti's InoSMI, and, to a lesser degree, RT's InoTV. In the first part of this paper I explore a tension between two strands of research: many scholars emphasise the low quality of InoSMI's translations, yet some Russian researchers draw on InoSMI's translations as a data source for analysing the Western press. In the second half, I draw on quantitative methods and diverse data sources to analyse which Western texts were and were not translated during moments of high international tension, at the time of the Crimean referendum (March 2014), and the downing of flight MH17 (July 2014).

ArticleFull TextPeer Reviewed
Aug2014

The Memory of Katyn in Polish Political Discourse: A Quantitative Study

Europe-Asia Studies, 2014:7, pp: 1165--1187

This study uses quantitative methods to explore how the memory of Katyn is mobilised in political discourse. The scholarly literature on memory conflict tends to see international memory disputes as an expression of a state's interests as a whole; this study analyses when hostile rhetoric is mobilised and finds that in Poland Katyn is invoked as part of an opposition strategy that criticises the [...more...]

Article Full TextPeer ReviewedRolf Fredheim

The Memory of Katyn in Polish Political Discourse: A Quantitative Study

Rolf Fredheim

This study uses quantitative methods to explore how the memory of Katyn is mobilised in political discourse. The scholarly literature on memory conflict tends to see international memory disputes as an expression of a state's interests as a whole; this study analyses when hostile rhetoric is mobilised and finds that in Poland Katyn is invoked as part of an opposition strategy that criticises the incumbent regime for undermining the national interest. Periods of accelerated debate about the significance of Katyn have occurred as political elites sought to achieve specific domestic rather than foreign political goals.

ArticleFull TextPeer Reviewed
Jun2015

Anonymity and Online Commenting: The Broken Windows Effect and the End of Drive-By Commenting

Paper presented at ACM Web Science 2015, Jun 2015, University of Oxford

In this study we ask how regulations about commenter identity affect the quantity and quality of discussion on commenting fora. In December 2013, the Huffington Post changed the rules for its comment forums to require participants to authenticate their accounts through Facebook. This enabled a large-scale `before and after' analysis. We collected over 42m comments on 55,000 HuffPo articles [...more...]

Conference Full TextPeer ReviewedRolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore, John Naughton

Anonymity and Online Commenting: The Broken Windows Effect and the End of Drive-By Commenting

Rolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore, John Naughton

In this study we ask how regulations about commenter identity affect the quantity and quality of discussion on commenting fora. In December 2013, the Huffington Post changed the rules for its comment forums to require participants to authenticate their accounts through Facebook. This enabled a large-scale `before and after' analysis. We collected over 42m comments on 55,000 HuffPo articles published in the period January 2013 to June 2014 and analysed them to determine how changes in identity disclosure impacted on discussions in the publication's comment pages. We first report our main results on the quantity of online commenting, where we find both a reduction and a shift in its distribution from politicised to blander topics. We then discuss the quality of discussion. Here we focus on the subset of 18.9m comments by users active both before and after the change, in order to disentangle the effects of the worst offenders withdrawing and the remaining commenters modifying their tone. We find a `broken windows' effect, whereby comment quality improves even when we exclude interaction with trolls and spammers.

ConferenceFull TextPeer Reviewed
2013

Quantifying Polarisation in Media Coverage of the 2011-12 Protests in Russia

Digital Icons, 2013:9

This study seeks to quantify the polarisation of opinion that emerged around the Russian protest movement following the 5 December Duma elections, and shows that the language used by mainstream media to discuss the protesters was substantially more radical than had been the case with previous protests. Polarisation and Mobilisation indicators are used in an attempt to measure the tone of the [...more...]

Article Full TextPeer ReviewedRolf Fredheim

Quantifying Polarisation in Media Coverage of the 2011-12 Protests in Russia

Rolf Fredheim

This study seeks to quantify the polarisation of opinion that emerged around the Russian protest movement following the 5 December Duma elections, and shows that the language used by mainstream media to discuss the protesters was substantially more radical than had been the case with previous protests. Polarisation and Mobilisation indicators are used in an attempt to measure the tone of the debate. This constitutes a methodological contribution to the quantification of large datasets. The indicators are made publicly available online. The article attempts to quantify patterns in pronoun incidence to measure the tone of texts, and more specifically how events are mobilised through Othering extendash{} the practice whereby the self is given meaning and form in contrast to an Other extendash{} in identity-forming rhetoric. The findings suggest that in February 2012 pro-Kremlin media coverage of the protests converged in tone with blogosphere activity.

ArticleFull TextPeer Reviewed
Mar2015

Complete Losers? Conspiracy Ideation and Suspicion of Elites in Great Britain

in Uscinski Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them

The contemporary literature about conspiracy theories usually characterises the present as awash with talk of conspiracy, and as an age of paranoia. But is this really the case? Maybe we are conflating conspiracy theorising and talk about conspiracy theories, confusing the object of study with the study of the object? Drawing on data from the UK Hansard of Parliamentary debates, we explore [...more...]

Book Chapter Full TextInvitedHugo Drochon, Rolf Fredheim

Complete Losers? Conspiracy Ideation and Suspicion of Elites in Great Britain

Hugo Drochon, Rolf Fredheim

The contemporary literature about conspiracy theories usually characterises the present as awash with talk of conspiracy, and as an age of paranoia. But is this really the case? Maybe we are conflating conspiracy theorising and talk about conspiracy theories, confusing the object of study with the study of the object? Drawing on data from the UK Hansard of Parliamentary debates, we explore whether conspiracy theorising is on the rise, stable or in decline.

Book ChapterFull TextInvited
2014

Review of "Digital Russia: The Language, Culture and Politics of New Media Communication", Gorham, Lunde, Paulsen (Eds.)

Zeitschrift Für Slavische Philologie, 2014:70

The volume, edited by Michael Gorham, Ingunn Lunde, and Martin Paulsen, emerged out of the `Future of Russian' project which ran at the University of Bergen from 2008 to 2013. A lot of thought and good research has gone into this collection of essays, which to date is the most comprehensive account of how the Russian internet has enabled new and creative forms of communication, often through new [...more...]

Article Full TextRolf Fredheim

Review of "Digital Russia: The Language, Culture and Politics of New Media Communication", Gorham, Lunde, Paulsen (Eds.)

Rolf Fredheim

The volume, edited by Michael Gorham, Ingunn Lunde, and Martin Paulsen, emerged out of the `Future of Russian' project which ran at the University of Bergen from 2008 to 2013. A lot of thought and good research has gone into this collection of essays, which to date is the most comprehensive account of how the Russian internet has enabled new and creative forms of communication, often through new uses of the Russian language. The editors posit that the Russian-language internet, or ``Runet,'' has allowed language to develop in new and unexpected ways. According to the introduction (pp. 1-8), the volume addresses the interaction between technology and communication on Runet, how the ``tension between social context and new technologies'' shape linguistic practice, how offline events are re-mediated online, how linguistic practice shapes ``political, social, and cultural reality,'' and the degree to which the observed trends are specific to the Runet (p. 5).

ArticleFull Text
2016

Less Conflict, More Cats: Online Commenting After Anonymity

Under Review, 2016

In this paper we analyse how identity regulations affect the quantity and quality of discussion on online commenting fora? We develop an analytical framework for analysing three dimensions of anonymity: traceability, durability and connectedness. We apply this framework to changes made in December 2013 to the authentication of commenters on the Huffington post, which we treat as a shift from [...more...]

Article Rolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore, John Naughton

Less Conflict, More Cats: Online Commenting After Anonymity

Rolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore, John Naughton

In this paper we analyse how identity regulations affect the quantity and quality of discussion on online commenting fora? We develop an analytical framework for analysing three dimensions of anonymity: traceability, durability and connectedness. We apply this framework to changes made in December 2013 to the authentication of commenters on the Huffington post, which we treat as a shift from disposable to durable online identities. This rule change enabled a before-and-after analysis of 40 million comments on 35,600 articles published between January 2013 and June 2014. We use a multilevel model to estimate how this rule change impacted on commenting volume, and how this impact varied across article categories. Our results broadly support the two dominant hypotheses in the literature: Firstly, as anonymity was reduced, user behaviour tended to improve. Secondly, the total number of comments dropped dramatically. However, this decline was surprisingly uneven across different subject areas, with commenting shifting away from conflictual and politicized topics and towards `safer' subjects. In conclusion, we discuss the importance of further investigation of patterns of exit and self-censorship in different topic areas.

Article
Mar2015

"Conspiracy" and "Conspiracy Theory" – a Relationship of Inverse Proportions?

Paper presented at Conspiracy Theory Conference, Mar 2015, University of Miami, Florida

The contemporary literature about conspiracy theories usually characterises the present as awash with talk of conspiracy, and as an age of paranoia. But is this really the case? Maybe we are conflating conspiracy theorising and talk about conspiracy theories, confusing the object of study with the study of the object? Drawing on data from the UK Hansard of Parliamentary debates, we explore [...more...]

Conference Full TextInvitedRolf Fredheim, Andrew McKenzie McHarg

"Conspiracy" and "Conspiracy Theory" – a Relationship of Inverse Proportions?

Rolf Fredheim, Andrew McKenzie McHarg

The contemporary literature about conspiracy theories usually characterises the present as awash with talk of conspiracy, and as an age of paranoia. But is this really the case? Maybe we are conflating conspiracy theorising and talk about conspiracy theories, confusing the object of study with the study of the object? Drawing on data from the UK Hansard of Parliamentary debates, we explore whether conspiracy theorising is on the rise, stable or in decline.

ConferenceFull TextInvited
2015

August 1991 and the Memory of Communism in Russia

in Hajek, Lohmeier, Pentzold Memory in a Mediated World - Andrea Hajek - Christine Lohmeier - Christian Pentzold

In this chapter I discuss how Vladimir Putin's political and media allies mobilise the past, and how the memory of Soviet collapse enters newspaper narratives about the present. During the 2011-12 electoral cycle, Russian opposition activists invoked the image of Soviet collapse as an analogy to what might happen to Putin's regime. I show that sources close to the Kremlin, be that groups engaged [...more...]

Book Chapter Full TextInvitedRolf Fredheim

August 1991 and the Memory of Communism in Russia

Rolf Fredheim

In this chapter I discuss how Vladimir Putin's political and media allies mobilise the past, and how the memory of Soviet collapse enters newspaper narratives about the present. During the 2011-12 electoral cycle, Russian opposition activists invoked the image of Soviet collapse as an analogy to what might happen to Putin's regime. I show that sources close to the Kremlin, be that groups engaged in promoting Putin's image on social media, or statecontrolled traditional media outlets, progressively less willing to invoke specific images of Soviet collapse. To this end, I analyse patterns in half a million Russian newspaper articles, published in the period January 2003 to May 2013, as well as leaked correspondence between members of the Russian political elite.

Book ChapterFull TextInvited
Oct2015

The Goreslavsky Effect: Russian Online Media After Independence

Paper presented at 15th Annual Aleksanteri Conference, Oct 2015, University of Helsinki

Lenta.ru and Gazeta are respectively the most and second-most popular online news outlets in Russia. Both sites enjoyed considerable editorial independence. In 2013 and 2014 this changed, as the oligarch-owner of both publications charged Alexey Goreslavsky with transforming the outlets. What happens to publication patterns when the Kremlin inserts a loyal editor? In this paper I use three data [...more...]

Conference Full TextRolf Fredheim

The Goreslavsky Effect: Russian Online Media After Independence

Rolf Fredheim

Lenta.ru and Gazeta are respectively the most and second-most popular online news outlets in Russia. Both sites enjoyed considerable editorial independence. In 2013 and 2014 this changed, as the oligarch-owner of both publications charged Alexey Goreslavsky with transforming the outlets. What happens to publication patterns when the Kremlin inserts a loyal editor? In this paper I use three data sources to find out: article metadata shows when journalists stopped writing for each publication, and which sections (e.g. politics) saw the biggest reductions and increasesfollowing the change. Keyword analysis helps pinpoint the terms to which the new editors were more reluctant or inclined to direct attention. Finally, a topic model helps identify clusters of subjects that saw unusual patterns following Goreslavsky's arrival.

ConferenceFull Text
2014

Scraping the Monumental: Stepan Bandera Through the Lens of Quantitative Memory Studies

Digital Icons, 2014

In this essay we use the example of Stepan Bandera to demonstrate the effectiveness of web-scraping methods as a tool to explore how people interact with memory content online. Using data from Wikipedia, Twitter and YouTube, we analyse the traces left by users interested in Stepan Bandera and assess how these differ between Ukraine, Russia and Poland. Applying data mining and content analysis to [...more...]

Article Full TextPeer ReviewedRolf Fredheim, Gernot Howanitz, Mykola Makhortykh

Scraping the Monumental: Stepan Bandera Through the Lens of Quantitative Memory Studies

Rolf Fredheim, Gernot Howanitz, Mykola Makhortykh

In this essay we use the example of Stepan Bandera to demonstrate the effectiveness of web-scraping methods as a tool to explore how people interact with memory content online. Using data from Wikipedia, Twitter and YouTube, we analyse the traces left by users interested in Stepan Bandera and assess how these differ between Ukraine, Russia and Poland. Applying data mining and content analysis to data traditionally analysed from a purely qualitative perspective, we show how Polish content about Bandera follows completely different patterns in comparison to Ukrainian and Russian debates. Our tools, made available online, also include attempts at analysing video content.

ArticleFull TextPeer Reviewed
Jul2016

Popular With the Robots? Accusation and Automation in the Argentine Presidential Elections, 2015

International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 2016

At the height of campaign season for the Argentine presidential elections this October, the leftist Frente para la Victoria (FpV), currently led by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, accused its main opposition, the centre-rightist Cambiemos, of conducting a `dirty campaign' (``FpV detalló la denuncia'', 2015). The accusation took place against the backdrop of severe flooding in Buenos [...more...]

Article Full TextPeer ReviewedTanya Filer, Rolf Fredheim

Popular With the Robots? Accusation and Automation in the Argentine Presidential Elections, 2015

Tanya Filer, Rolf Fredheim

At the height of campaign season for the Argentine presidential elections this October, the leftist Frente para la Victoria (FpV), currently led by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, accused its main opposition, the centre-rightist Cambiemos, of conducting a `dirty campaign' (``FpV detalló la denuncia'', 2015). The accusation took place against the backdrop of severe flooding in Buenos Aires, during which three died and 11,000 were evacuated. The Mayor of Buenos Aires and Cambiemos candidate Mauricio Macri admonished Daniel Scioli, Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, for mismanaging the disaster. In turn, the FpV decried Cambiemos for its ostensibly `dirty and negative' tactics. Such accusations of dishonourable campaigning are commonplace in Argentine electoral politics, having featured in the run-up to every presidential election since the transition to democracy in 1983. The complaint, like those prior ones, drew on the language of democratic rights and duties, describing the Cambiemos campaign as an affront to `transparency' and an abuse of `freedom' (``FpV detalló la denuncia'', 2015). This time, however, the claim had an important distinguishing feature. The FpV alleged that Cambiemos abused the political affordances of social media, running a Twitter campaign via `50,000' accounts that `aren't real, that are automated and managed by computer programmes, or accounts with false numbers and letters attached to them, that seek to tarnish the networks with false information' (``FpV detalló la denuncia'', 2015). More than just the story of lies and cover-ups that previous campaigns drew upon, this allegation centred on the medium of deception and the scale of subterfuge that it could enable.

ArticleFull TextPeer Reviewed
2016

Sparking Debate? Political Deaths and Twitter Discourses in Argentina and Russia

Information, Communication and Society, 2016:11, pp: 1539--1555

The big question that pervades debate between techno-optimists and their detractors is whether social media are good for democracy. Do they help to produce or accelerate democratic change or, alternatively, might they hinder it? This article foregrounds an alternative perspective, arguing that individual social networking applications likely do not fulfil a single political function across [...more...]

Article Full TextPeer ReviewedTanya Filer, Rolf Fredheim

Sparking Debate? Political Deaths and Twitter Discourses in Argentina and Russia

Tanya Filer, Rolf Fredheim

The big question that pervades debate between techno-optimists and their detractors is whether social media are good for democracy. Do they help to produce or accelerate democratic change or, alternatively, might they hinder it? This article foregrounds an alternative perspective, arguing that individual social networking applications likely do not fulfil a single political function across national contexts. Their functionality may be mediated instead by language and by pre-existing relationships between the state and offline domestic media. We arrive at this conclusion through examining reactions on Twitter to two fatal events that occurred in early 2015: the death in suspicious and politically charged circumstances of the special prosecutor Alberto Nisman in Argentina, and the murder in Russia of opposition activist Boris Nemtsov. Several similarities between the two deaths facilitate a comparative analysis of the discourses around them in the Spanish-language and Russian-language Twitter spheres respectively. In Russia, a hostile social media environment polluted by high levels of automated content and other spam reduced the utility of Twitter for opposition voices working against an increasingly authoritarian state. In Argentina, a third-wave democracy, Twitter discourses appeared as predominantly coextensive with other pro-government and opposition online, print, and broadcast fora, thus consolidating and amplifying a highly polarized and repetitive wider public political conversation. Despite the potential for social media to help citizens circumvent restrictions to discursive participation in national public spheres, in both cases compared here language environment and domestic political structures contribute significantly to determining the uses and limitations of online spaces for expressing opinion on current affairs stories involving the state.

ArticleFull TextPeer Reviewed
2016

Talking Politics Online: How Facebook Generates Clicks but Undermines Discussion

Under Review, 2016

Many citizens in advanced democracies read and discuss the news online through social media platforms. How does this change influence deliberative quality? We compare three commenting architectures used by the Huffington Post between January 2013 - February 2015, characterised respectively by easy anonymity, stable pseudonyms, and real name identities through Facebook. These phases provide a [...more...]

Article Full TextRolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore

Talking Politics Online: How Facebook Generates Clicks but Undermines Discussion

Rolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore

Many citizens in advanced democracies read and discuss the news online through social media platforms. How does this change influence deliberative quality? We compare three commenting architectures used by the Huffington Post between January 2013 - February 2015, characterised respectively by easy anonymity, stable pseudonyms, and real name identities through Facebook. These phases provide a natural experiment with which to compare a number of indicators of argumentative engagement. We find that across the board, pseudonymous commenting yielded much higher levels of reason giving than either anonymous or Facebook's real name environment. By focusing not on exposure to cross-cutting information but rather on the quality of discursive engagement, our study adds an important corrective to recent research (1) addressing the potential effect of Facebook on polarization.

ArticleFull Text
Apr2015

Anonymity and Online Commenting: An Empirical Study

Working paper, 2015

In this study we ask how regulations about commenter identity affect the quantity and quality of discussion on commenting fora. In December 2013, the Huffington Post changed the rules for its comment forums to require participants to authenticate their accounts through Facebook. This enabled a large-scale `before and after' analysis. We collected over 42m comments on 55,000 HuffPo articles [...more...]

Article Full TextRolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore, John Naughton

Anonymity and Online Commenting: An Empirical Study

Rolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore, John Naughton

In this study we ask how regulations about commenter identity affect the quantity and quality of discussion on commenting fora. In December 2013, the Huffington Post changed the rules for its comment forums to require participants to authenticate their accounts through Facebook. This enabled a large-scale `before and after' analysis. We collected over 42m comments on 55,000 HuffPo articles published in the period January 2013 to June 2014 and analysed them to determine how changes in identity disclosure impacted on discussions in the publication's comment pages. Our results support the two dominant hypotheses in the literature: the move away from disposable identities resulted in sharply reduced commenting levels and improved user behaviour, partly because the worst offenders withdrew, and partly as commenters modified their tone. However, we found the rate of reduction to vary widely across subject areas: subjects particularly prone to spamming saw the greatest reduction in interaction, while a number of issues saw little reduction at all.

ArticleFull Text
Feb2014

Disappearance of Opinion in Izvestiia's Coverage of the Beslan Hostage Crisis

Paper presented at 13th International Postgraduate Conference on Central and Eastern Europe, Feb 2014, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London

No abstract available

Conference Rolf Fredheim

Disappearance of Opinion in Izvestiia's Coverage of the Beslan Hostage Crisis

Rolf Fredheim

No abstract available

Conference
May2014

Geo-Spatial Positioning of Russian Literary Culture

Presentation at Cambridge Slavonic Studies Graduate Research Forum, University of Cambridge, May 2014

No abstract available

Presentation Rolf Fredheim

Geo-Spatial Positioning of Russian Literary Culture

Rolf Fredheim

No abstract available

Presentation
May2013

Life Without a Pulse: Scraping the Russian Blogosphere

Presentation at Workshop in Online Data Collection Held at the Spring School in Digital Mnemonics, University of Passau, May 2013

No abstract available

Presentation InvitedRolf Fredheim

Life Without a Pulse: Scraping the Russian Blogosphere

Rolf Fredheim

No abstract available

PresentationInvited
Jun2012

Polarisation and Mobilisation in the Russian Blogosphere

Presentation at Arab Spring and Russian Winter: Digital Humanities, Protest Movements and Memory Studies, University of Cambridge, Jun 2012

No abstract available

Presentation InvitedRolf Fredheim

Polarisation and Mobilisation in the Russian Blogosphere

Rolf Fredheim

No abstract available

PresentationInvited
Aug2015

Why Are We So Worried About the Russian Doping Scandal?

OpenDemocracy Russia, Aug 2015

The notion of conspiracy has entered much academic and journalistic writing about Russia, through a popular perception that Putin is pulling all the strings, controlling events domestic and foreign.\ensuremath{<}br\ensuremath{>}So strong is this prejudice that even Russia's doping problem is attributed to the President's machinations.\ensuremath{<}br\ensuremath{>}On 1 August, The Sunday Times and [...more...]

Media Full TextRolf Fredheim, Tom Rowley

Why Are We So Worried About the Russian Doping Scandal?

Rolf Fredheim, Tom Rowley

The notion of conspiracy has entered much academic and journalistic writing about Russia, through a popular perception that Putin is pulling all the strings, controlling events domestic and foreign.\ensuremath{<}br\ensuremath{>}So strong is this prejudice that even Russia's doping problem is attributed to the President's machinations.\ensuremath{<}br\ensuremath{>}On 1 August, The Sunday Times and documentary maker Hajo Seppelt broke the latest in a series of stories pointing to widespread doping in top international sport. This particular report, based on a leaked dataset of 12,000 blood tests, suggests a third of athletes who won medals in endurance events at major athletics championships from 2001 to 2012 had registered abnormal blood values. Of the 800 athletes deemed suspicious, more than half (415) were Russian citizens.

MediaFull Text
Apr2015

Speaking on Russia and Conspiracy Theories, in 'Simon Szreter on Conspiracy Theories, Trust in Politics & Solutions'

Election Politics Podcast, Apr 2015

It is said that trust in politics is at an all-time low. Our politicians are seen as out of touch and out to fill their own pockets. But when does mistrust become something more profound? This week we discuss this phenomenon in its most extreme form: conspiracy theories. What conspiracy theories do the British public believe? How commonplace are they, and how have they spread? Are people really [...more...]

Media Full TextHugo Drochon, Tanya Filer, Rolf Fredheim

Speaking on Russia and Conspiracy Theories, in 'Simon Szreter on Conspiracy Theories, Trust in Politics & Solutions'

Hugo Drochon, Tanya Filer, Rolf Fredheim

It is said that trust in politics is at an all-time low. Our politicians are seen as out of touch and out to fill their own pockets. But when does mistrust become something more profound? This week we discuss this phenomenon in its most extreme form: conspiracy theories. What conspiracy theories do the British public believe? How commonplace are they, and how have they spread? Are people really so wrong to believe that the world is run by a secret elite? We interview a team of Cambridge researchers for answers. Then David turns to Professor Simon Szreter - social historian and founder of `History & Policy' - to discuss how academics are trying to find ways of restoring the public's faith in politics, and bridge the gap between the politicians' narrow view of the world and how the voters see it. The team also discuss the television debates, politicians' use (and abuse) of facts and figures, Tony Blair, and UKIP's strategy for electoral success.

MediaFull Text
Oct2015

Arguing With the Other Side: Political Talk in the Networked Public Sphere

Presentation at University of Southampton Politics Seminar, Oct 2015

Many citizens in advanced democracies read and discuss the news online, and they increasingly do so through social media platforms. What effect might this have on the quality of public deliberation? In order to make a first step to addressing this large question, we have conducted a large scale study of patterns of online commenting on the Huffington Post. HuffPo has effectively provided a [...more...]

Presentation InvitedAlfred Moore, Rolf Fredheim

Arguing With the Other Side: Political Talk in the Networked Public Sphere

Alfred Moore, Rolf Fredheim

Many citizens in advanced democracies read and discuss the news online, and they increasingly do so through social media platforms. What effect might this have on the quality of public deliberation? In order to make a first step to addressing this large question, we have conducted a large scale study of patterns of online commenting on the Huffington Post. HuffPo has effectively provided a natural experiment by changing the structure of its comments section between January 2013 and June 2014, from an initial state of easy anonymity (the 'troll's paradise'), to a state in which registration was required but users could maintain pseudonyms, and then to outsourcing the comments to Facebook. We begin by disaggregating the concept of anonymity, enabling us to more clearly describe this change in the commenting architecture, which can be characterised in terms of two models of the online public sphere: adversarial spaces (in unregulated and regulated variants), and friendly spaces! We then describe our empirical study of changes in the quantity and quality of discussion through these phases. Finally, we try to make sense of these changes by drawing on a minimal conception of deliberation as an exchange of arguments for or against something. From this point of view, and contrary to at least one prominent study, it seems that the best environment for deliberation was the regulated adversarial phase, rather than the unregulated adversarial space, or the friendly space of Facebook commenting, which were each problematic for different reasons. Our analysis suggests that there are good reasons, from the point of view of the quality of public deliberation (and not just from the point of view of fear of monopoly power and links to the national security state), to resist the concentration and integration of news through social media.

PresentationInvited
Feb2015

Playing for Time: the Past in Russian Media Coverage (2003-13).

University of Cambridge, Examined by John Barber and Vlad Strukov Feb 2015

Over the past decade, an increasingly authoritarian regime in Russia has moved to curb free expression. The shrinking of media freedoms has been reflected in coverage of the sensitive issue of this regime's relationship to the Soviet past. In this thesis, I explore representations of the past in Russian media texts, drawing on material from on and offline media from the period 2003 to 2013. A [...more...]

Thesis Rolf Fredheim

Playing for Time: the Past in Russian Media Coverage (2003-13).

Rolf Fredheim

Over the past decade, an increasingly authoritarian regime in Russia has moved to curb free expression. The shrinking of media freedoms has been reflected in coverage of the sensitive issue of this regime's relationship to the Soviet past. In this thesis, I explore representations of the past in Russian media texts, drawing on material from on and offline media from the period 2003 to 2013. A common theme in the literature about Russian media is the pervasiveness of informal institutions and self-censorship. Such methods of control are hard to document accurately, especially using traditional forms of enquiry. In this study, I slice big textual data in different directions in order to crystallize the periods of time, types of texts, and subject matter in which the effects of control and self-censorship are most apparent. Analysing the media through the prism of evasiveness, I make two central claims: firstly, evasiveness in Russian media coverage takes many forms, and although state-controlled media do systematically avoid certain subjects and arguments, this thesis demonstrates that evasiveness in tone, context, and temporal and geographical situation of texts, though harder to detect, are as pervasive as explicit advocacy or denunciation. Secondly, I argue that these more subtle forms of evasiveness are especially visible in the positioning of the past relative to the present, and that this visibility takes very different forms in state-controlled and independent media.

In presenting my argument, I draw on two types of evidence: narrow cases studies, and grand quantitative overviews. A discussion about how to make automated forms of analysis contribute useful evidence forms a backdrop to the study. Case studies include media coverage about the Beslan hostage tragedy, the Ul'man case, Medvedev's destalinization policy, the Katyn massacre, and the August Putsch of 1991. The quantitative surveys map the entirety of media output, analyse how keywords systematically correlate with genre, give insight into how some news stories have an unusually long shelf life, and show how historical topics are unevenly distributed across newspapers. I conduct an intermediate-level survey of how the context of historical topics varies between different media groups, and consider how certain periods of history and geographical locations are almost barred from official media accounts of a particular political variety. Cumulatively, these forms of evidence give varied points of insight into how state ownership is reflected in patterns of media coverage. The closer readings look at qualitative trends and grammatical constructions; the broader surveys generalize these findings to a body of half a million texts spanning more than a decade.

I find that apparent evasiveness in genre selection is strongly related to quantitative measures. Subjects, such as Beslan, rarely written about analytically in State-Controlled Media (SCM), are also the ones where the difference in article numbers between SCM and Independent Media (IM) is the greatest. Texts about history exhibit radically different and more subtle forms of evasiveness. In many cases, historical subjects are discussed quantitatively evenly by the media groups. For instance, SCM published more articles about the Katyn massacre than did IM. However, Katyn is contextualized evasively, as may be seen by analysing which `topics' tend to co-habit the texts; SCM texts are disproportionately likely to be about film, but very rarely about the Great Patriotic War. In many cases, evasiveness is systematic. Across a swathe of texts about political thought, similar language is used by SCM and IM extendash{} with the major difference that IM tend to write about Russia, while SCM virtually never do extendash{} especially not analytically, or in conjunction with reference to Putin, or indeed, with reference to the recent past.

This thesis also makes a series of methodological contributions. I introduce ways to map a whole corpus using keywords and network analysis, allowing the researcher to visualize flow of ideas and areas of emphasis; a means of classifying genre which I use to calculate areas contested in qualitatively similar ways; a novel approach to validating historical `topics'; how a topic model allows calculations of context; a way to model a topic structure; and I use geographical and temporal markers to identify average positioning of texts. Throughout this thesis, I conduct a critical discussion of how to measure the past, focusing in particular on why researchers should resist simple means of quantification as provided by database search facilities. Instead, I argue, evasiveness in particular and the media in general is best studied in its entirety.

Thesis
2011

Thesis Rolf Fredheim

When and for What Reason Are Historical Events Invoked in Political Discourse: The Example of Katy\ʼn

Rolf Fredheim

No abstract available

Thesis
Jan2009

Richard Pipes as a Figure of Authority in the Russian Press

Trinity College Dublin, BA, Hons Jan 2009

No abstract available

Thesis Rolf Fredheim

Richard Pipes as a Figure of Authority in the Russian Press

Rolf Fredheim

No abstract available

Thesis
Feb2016

What Kind of Control Does Putin Have Over Russian Media?

Baltic Rim Economies, 2016:1, pp: 37

No abstract available

Article Full TextRolf Fredheim

What Kind of Control Does Putin Have Over Russian Media?

Rolf Fredheim

No abstract available

ArticleFull Text
Jun2016

The Loyal Editor Effect: Russian Online Journalism After Independence

Post-Soviet Affairs, 2016

This article investigates what effect pressure from owners extendash{} via loyal editors extendash{} had on journalistic output at the popular Russian online newspapers Lenta and Gazeta. Using novel methods to analyze a data-set of nearly 1 million articles from the period 2010 extendash{}2015, this article separates the effect of a changing news agenda from new editorial priorities. [...more...]

Article Full TextPeer ReviewedRolf Fredheim

The Loyal Editor Effect: Russian Online Journalism After Independence

Rolf Fredheim

This article investigates what effect pressure from owners extendash{} via loyal editors extendash{} had on journalistic output at the popular Russian online newspapers Lenta and Gazeta. Using novel methods to analyze a data-set of nearly 1 million articles from the period 2010 extendash{}2015, this article separates the effect of a changing news agenda from new editorial priorities. Statistical tests show that changes in output coincide temporally with editorial change, and that the direction of change sees new editors move away from publication patterns associated with other independent outlets. In both Gazeta and Lenta, editorial changes were accompanied by a move away from core news areas such as domestic and international politics, toward lifestyle and human interest subjects. The loyal editor effect resulted in a 50% reduction in coverage of controversial legal proceedings, together with the business dealings of Russian elites.

ArticleFull TextPeer Reviewed
Jul2016

Anonymity and Online Discussion: A New Framework for Analysis

Paper presented at Digital Humanities 2016, Jul 2016, Krakow

What's bad about anonymity is weak durability - communicative accountability is easily evaded. What's bad about real name is strong connectedness - reproducing offline power dynamics. In this paper we ask is it possible to generate systems where it is hard to dispose of online identities, but possible to keep it separate from offline identity? To achieve this, we propose thinking of anyonymity [...more...]

Conference Peer ReviewedRolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore

Anonymity and Online Discussion: A New Framework for Analysis

Rolf Fredheim, Alfred Moore

What's bad about anonymity is weak durability - communicative accountability is easily evaded. What's bad about real name is strong connectedness - reproducing offline power dynamics. In this paper we ask is it possible to generate systems where it is hard to dispose of online identities, but possible to keep it separate from offline identity? To achieve this, we propose thinking of anyonymity not as a linear phenomenon, the opposite of real name identity, but as consisting of three components: durability, connectedness, and traceability.

ConferencePeer Reviewed

TEACHING

  • Dec 2016
    2013

    LECTURER

    DIGITAL DATA COLLECTION, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

    The ability to collect, tidy, and archive unstructured online data is becoming an essential part of the social science toolkit. Traditionally, methods training focused on applying statistical tests to neatly organised data. But, the move to study online behaviour, social movements, mass media, and communication, has revealed a gap between the apparently easy availability of data, and the methods used to analyse it.

    Through the course in digital data collection I aim to equip students with some of the tools needed to bridge this gap. The course, funcded by the Social Science Research Methods Centre at the University of Cambridge, and run for the third time in 2016 explores how to programmatically access information stored online, and how to transform these unstructured data for analysis.

    The course is made up of four tutorials, designed to build the tools needed to effectively collect different types of data. We use the programming language R to access data directly from newspapers, as well as live data streams using APIs (YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps, Wikipedia). Collectively these sessions will give the skillsets necessary to use web scraping in students’ own research.

    Slides for the course, along with other material, including pdf files, presentations, and raw R code, is available here.

PROJECTS

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HuffPo Commenting

HuffPo Commenting

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Detecting Twitter Bots

Detecting Twitter Bots

Detecting Twitter Bots

My colleague Tanya Filer and I have been comparing political mobilization on Twitter in Russia and Argentina. Any such attempt must consider the effects of automation: especially in Russia, spam and bot-like activity is rife. In our first comparison, we found 80% of the Russian content we analysed was probably either generated automatically, or by accounts that themselves had been creaetd automatically.

How do we detect bots, such as the patriotic Russian bots depicted to the right? It's quite a technical process, and we've devoted a lengthy piece to it here. Check it out for a stunning range of different bot types!

Our comparative analysis of political discourse on Twitter following the politically charged death of Alberto Nisman in Argentina and the murder of Boris Nemtsov in Russia, both in early 2015, found in Argentina, automation was primarily used for amplification - to extent a message's reach. In Russia, contrastingly, automation was used to hijack hashtags associated with the opposition, flooding them with spam to such an extent that real oppositional content became almost impossible to find.

Analysing the Argintinean Presidential election of 2015, we found that both the Kirchnerist candidate Daniel Scioli, and the opposition Cambiemos candidate Mauricio Macri, made extensive use of automation in their campaigns.