Category Archives: Web Observatory News


Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt cut the WebScience@10 cake in front of an audience celebrating 10 years of Web Science.
Professors Dame Wendy Hall and Sir Nigel Shadbolt cut the WebScience@10 cake/@dder ©2016

Last Tuesday we held WebScience@10 -celebrating 10 years of Web Science. Events were run in Berlin, London and Chicago and streamed live on our global ‘TV channel’.

Dr Asstha Madaan, Dr Ramine Tinate, Joanne Lewis, Dr Thannassis Tiropanis, and Dr Dominic DiFranzo discussing Web Observatories on WebScience@10 TV
Discussing Web Observatories on WebScience@10 TV

Over 300 delegates from industry, government and academia attended the events in person, with an additional 500 watching online, and many more following the #websci10 hashtag. Our celebration featured the exciting initiatives happening in our global network of labs, the Web Observatory, as well as debates on Trust and the Web, the role of the Web during elections, and the launch of our Web Science Manifesto.

Please contact us if you are interested in working with us to support the global development of Web Science. This could involve applying to join our network of labs (WSTNet), helping with the development of the Web Observatory, or any other projects that we showcased at WebScience@10.


  • Overview of the WebScience@10 activities.
  • Trust and the Web: Bill Thompson, Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Doc Searles, Liz Brandt and Matt McNeill discuss if and how we can trust the Web.
  • Web Science at the Cutting Edge: Professor Leslie Carr (Chair), Dr Pete Burnap (Cardiff University), Professor Dave De Roure (Oxford e-Research Centre), Professor Yi-Ke Guo (Data Science Institute), Professor Susan Halford (Web Science Institute) and Dr Jie Tang (Tsinghua University) discuss the latest in Web Science research.

Real-time Twitter Visualisations for the US 2016 Presidential Elections

Twitter Visualisation at RPI For the 2016 US Presidential election, researchers at the University of Southampton with support from the EPSRC funded project SOCIAM,  built a real-time data visualization that combined traditional polling data with social media posts. The application was built and designed for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute EMPAC Campfire, a novel multi-user, collaborative, immersive, computing interface that consist of a desk height panoramic screen and floor projection that users gather around and look into. The application is also a part of the Web Macroscope (a visualization platform developed at the University of Southampton) and uses data from the Southampton Web Observatory.

Data collection for the polling data was taking from the Huffington Post Pollster API, which collects all the popular polls and their results. The social media data was collected on Twitter, using both their Streaming and Search API. The Streaming API was used to create a stream of data that included 1% of all tweets that had any of the popular and official hashtags and words used by each campaign to show support for their candidate. This hashtag list included tags like ‘TeamTrump’, ‘maga’, ‘TeamTrump’, and ’draintheswamp’ in support for Donald Trump, and ‘LoveTrumpsHate’, ‘ImWithHer’, ‘StrongerTogether’, and ‘WhyIWantHillary’ in support for Hillary Clinton. Any tweets that mixed hashtags and words from both candidates were removed as this was normally done in a way to not show support for a candidate, but to react to supporters on the other side.Campfire visualisation of US election Twitter activity
Results from the visualizations showed different levels of support on Twitter for each candidates over time. In the days leading to the election on November 8th, tweets in support for Trump were 1.5 times greater than those in support for Clinton. Interestingly, on the day of the election, this ratio switched and levelled off. Around the 2pm EST on November 8th, tweets in support for Clinton were almost equal to the number of tweets supporting Trump. Later in the night of the election, the ratio of support changed again, with tweets in support of Trump being 1.14 times larger than those in support for Clinton.
Another interesting result from the data, was the how many tweets that had geographic information tagged to them were overwhelmingly in support for Clinton throughout the day leading and on the election. Most tweets streamed through the visualization had no GPS lat/long data embedded in them (these tweets often come from mobile phones using the Twitter App, with the optional GSP location data option enabled). As a whole, these geographic tweets are a small minority of the data collected from the Twitter Stream (about 1%). Interestingly, these geographic tweets supported Clinton 15 times more than Trump. Why this is the case is hard to say. It looks like Clinton supporters use mobile apps with location data more than Trump supporters.
Two other studies – one from researchers at USC, and another from Oxford University, the University of Washington and Corvinus University of Budapest,both showed that AI controlled bots were spreading pro-Trump content in overwhelming numbers. This created the illusion of more support for Trump on Twitter than make naturally been. Our results of geotagged tweets in support for Clinton, despite overall support from Trump on Twitter might be due to this issue of bots.
Authored by Dominic DiFranzo, 18 November 2016.

“Keys Under Doormats” Authors Receive J.D. Falk Award for Clarifying Insecurity of Government-Mandated Access to Documents

15 highly-respected computer scientists and security experts who came together to outline how law enforcement’s proposed requirement for “backdoor” access to all encrypted files would actually make the Internet more vulnerable to crime and deception were recognized for their work today with the M3AAWG 2015 J.D. Falk Award. “Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity by Requiring Government Access to All Data and Communications” explains how the government’s request for a system that would allow it to access any secured file would set back Internet security, raise legal and ethical questions, and be impractical to implement.

The report cites three general problems:

  • Providing exceptional access would impede the best practices currently being deployed to make the Internet more secure, including deleting encryption keys immediately after use and using keys to authenticate that a message has not been manipulated or forged.
  • A new surveillance ecosystem built to accommodate exceptional access would substantially increase system complexity, be less secure and be susceptible to operator errors that could put millions of end-users at risk.
  • The existence of an additional pathway to access encrypted data would create concentrated targets, attracting cybercriminals and endangering end-users and commerce.

Respected Computer Scientists and Security Experts

The authors are accomplished security experts from a range of academia, research and business who add a variety of perspectives to the report:

  • Harold Abelson, MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science, IEEE fellow and a founding director of both Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation
  • Ross Anderson, University of Cambridge professor of security engineering
  • Steven M. Bellovin, Columbia University professor of computer science
  • Josh Benaloh, Microsoft Research senior cryptographer researching verifiable election protocols and related technologies
  • Matt Blaze, associate professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania where he directs the Distributed Systems Lab
  • Whitfield Diffie, an American cryptographer whose 1975 discovery of the concept of public-key cryptography opened up the possibility of secure, Internet-scale communications
  • John Gilmore, entrepreneur and civil libertarian, an early employee of Sun Microsystems, and co-founder of Cygnus Solutions, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Cypherpunks, and the Internet’s alt newsgroup
  • Matthew Green, research professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute focusing on cryptographic privacy techniques and new techniques for deploying secure messaging protocols
  • Peter G. Neumann, senior principal scientist at the SRI International Computer Science Lab and moderator of the ACM Risks Forum for thirty years
  • Susan Landau, professor of cybersecurity policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and author of two books on the subject
  • Ronald L. Rivest, MIT Institute Professor, co-inventor of the RSA public-key cryptosystem, and founder of RSA Security and Verisign
  • Jeffrey I. Schiller, Internet Engineering Steering Group Area Director for Security from 1994 to 2003
  • Bruce Schneier, fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University, and author of numerous books
  • Michael A. Specter, security researcher and Computer Science Ph.D. candidate at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
  • Daniel J. Weitzner, principal research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, Founding Director of the MIT Cybersecurity and Internet Policy Research Initiative, United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer in the White House (2011-2012)

Original Article can be found here

Original Paper can be downloaded here

Australian Web Observatory goes live


Lead by WST board member Anni Rowland-Campbell the latest WO in a World-Wide Web of Observatories (W3O) went live in Australia thanks to hard work of the joint team from the University of South Australia (UNSA) and WSTnet member the University of Southampton. This is a government-lead observatory project looking at the issue of ageing population and how evidence-based policy can be informed through the use of Observatory technologies.

Click here to find out more