Great Innovative Ideas

Great Innovative Ideas are a way to showcase the exciting new research and ideas generated by the computing community.

A Villain’s Guide To Social Media And Web Science

The following Great Innovative Idea is from Mark Bernstein, the chief scientist at Eastgate Systems, Inc and Clare Hooper, an Independent Scholar in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Mark and Clare were winners at the recent Computing Community Consortium (CCC) sponsored Blue Sky Ideas Conference Track at the 29TH ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media, July 9-12, 2018 in Baltimore, MD. Their paper is called “A Villain’s Guide To Social Media And Web Science.”

The Idea

The great power and profitability of social media may not benefit the good and the bad alike; increasing evidence indicates that recent advances in data mining, social media, and web science all asymmetrically benefit the cruel, the dishonest, and the tyrant. Daily headlines reflect the appropriation and misuse of these technologies by those with harmful intent.  The villain can lie; the good should not, yet lies are more various, easier to test and optimize, and more efficient to spread.  The villain can steal; the good must not: our algorithms privilege whoever has the biggest big data, and our neural networks do not care that some of their data is stolen.


Our immediate goal is to raise the profile of this issue in the context of academia and stimulate research to counter these negative impacts. Be it a discussion, simulation, or new technology, we need to energize and direct efforts to increase the transparency of algorithms and interactions online and to help people stay informed and safe.

Other Research

Mark Bernstein studies hypertexts and hypertext systems, most recently Tinderbox — a writing tool for capturing, analyzing, and visualizing notes.

In recent years, Clare’s focus has been on the qualitative and quantitative analysis of user experience; exploring how and why people trust technology; and analysis of social machines, socio-technical systems in which people achieve new, creative goals enabled by automated technological processes. The latter, of course, is central to the ideas discussed here.

Researcher’s Background

Mark’s degree was in physical chemistry, but he’s always been deeply interested in the intersection of computation and language, both in computer languages and in literary machines.

Originally hailing from computer science, Clare is specialized in user experience, human-computer interaction and web science. She has long been fascinated by hypertext and the possibilities of networked technology, and still hopes that it may come to have a net positive impact on the world.


Eastgate is online at Mark and Clare are online at and respectively.

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