Samuel Woolley is a writer and researcher with a focus on emerging media technologies, propaganda and politics. His work looks at how automation, algorithms and AI are leveraged for both democracy and control. His forthcoming book, The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth, will be released in January of 2020 by PublicAffairs/Hachette. It explores the future of digital disinformation and 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 is the Program Director of disinformation research at the Center for Media Engagement (CME) at UT. He holds a PhD from the University of Washington-Seattle. His academic work has appeared in 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 political 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 five 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 the political elite in order to create illusions of both support and opposition for particular candidates, campaigns and events.
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.
Woolley lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, also named Sam, and their dog, Basket. He tweets from @samuelwoolley