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Information Warfare’s Secret Weapon: Kittens

Research on Social Media Sharing Reveals the Potential Dangers of Cuteness

By Maryland Today Staff

A viral video of baby goats in crocheted turtlenecks might be doing more than eliciting “hearts” over TikTok.

Researchers from University of Maryland’s Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS) are examining how emotional responses from “aww” to “eww” influence how information—and disinformation—is shared on social media.

“There’s already research looking at things like anger and hate and how these negative emotions are associated with sharing,” said Susannah Paletz, associate professor in the College of Information Studies and principal investigator. “But there are a number of positive emotions that people don’t ever measure. And the internet is made of cats—so why aren’t people studying this?”

In the latest installment of “Enterprise: University of Maryland Research Stories,” ARLIS researchers share their data-driven approach to unpacking and measuring how effective posts influence, or even manipulate, social media users into becoming conduits of information.



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