Dr. Samuel Woolley is a writer, researcher and professor with a focus on emerging media technologies and propaganda. His work looks at how automation, algorithms and AI are leveraged for both freedom and control. His recent book, The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth (PublicAffairs/Hachette, 2020) explores the future of digital disinformation across virtual reality, video, and other media tools. Crucially, it provides a pragmatic roadmap for how society can respond.
Woolley is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas-Austin. He a Knight Faculty Fellow and the Program Director of propaganda research at the Center for Media Engagement (CME) at UT. His academic work has appeared in numerous academic publications including: the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, the International Journal of Communication, the Routledge Handbook of Media, Conflict and Security, A Networked Self: Platforms, Stories, Connections and The Political Economy of Robots. He has written for popular venues including The Atlantic, Wired, The Guardian, Motherboard-Vice, and Tech Crunch. His research has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and on Today, 60 Minutes and Frontline.
Beginning in 2013, Woolley and his collaborators have studied the ways in which social media platforms are being used to manipulate public opinion during major events around the globe. Together, they founded the Computational Propaganda Research Project (ComProp), now based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Woolley is also the founder of the Digital Intelligence Lab at the Institute for the Future (IFTF)–a 50-year-old think-tank based in Palo Alto, CA.
Woolley is the co-editor, with Dr. Philip N. Howard, of a book of country-specific case studies on social media, disinformation and state-sponsored trolling entitled Computational Propaganda (Oxford University Press). He is currently working on another book, Manufacturing Consensus (Yale University Press), which accesses over seven years of international field-work in order to study the people who build and launch armies of bots over social media. He builds upon the work of Herman and Chomsky to argue that social media are leveraged by both elite groups and regular citizens in order to create illusions of both support and opposition for particular candidates/campaigns, companies/products, and ideas/messages.
Prior to joining the faculty at UT, Woolley was the Director of Research of the ComProp Project at Oxford and the Director of the Digital Intelligence Lab at IFTF. He has served as a research fellow at Google Jigsaw, a resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Digital Innovation Democracy Initiative, a Belfer Fellow at the Center for Technology and Society at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a research fellow at the TechPolicy Lab at the University of Washington, and a pre-doctoral fellow at the Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University. He holds a PhD from the University of Washington-Seattle, an MA from the Claremont Graduate University, and a BA from the University of San Diego.
Woolley lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, also named Sam, and their dog, Basket. He tweets from @samuelwoolley