Creighton University professors and students study online mobs

Online mobs have become a growing presence in our tech-driven world.
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 5:32 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Online mobs have become a growing presence in our tech-driven world. Thousands of people are coming together virtually, with both good and harmful intentions.

Creighton University is on the frontline, working to understand these mobs and hopefully catch anything bad before it happens.

When you think of the word “mob,” images of rioters storming businesses or government buildings likely come to mind. Or on the flip side, a group coming together to raise money for a good cause.

Mobs, good or bad, are becoming more popular and more powerful on social media.

Creighton student Jack Burright says learning about them is important.

“This is something that matters in the world and would love to be a part of and learn more about,” Burright said.

Burright is working with Creighton Assistant Professor Dr. Samer Al-Khateeb on a research project awarded by the U.S. Air-force. They’re tasked with trying to figure out how online mobs form and how likely they are to reach their goal.

“Because social media is getting bigger and bigger with time, there’s only going to be more happening in cyberspace.”

Dr. Al-Khateeb says this understanding could have profound effects on national security.

“In the past it used to be really more for fun, but then as time passes, and technology is advancing, things are getting more serious,” Dr. Al-Khateeb said.

Dr. Al-Khateeb says understanding online mobs can help strategize a response in advance.

“Being able to understand, you can be prepared if things don’t go as they should.”

One strategy is a counter-messaging campaign created by knowing what kind of language and hashtags to use, and the ideas that should be expressed.

It’s a future Burright wants to be a part of.

“I feel like anything I could do to contribute to something bigger than myself, I feel that would be fantastic. I think this is an opportunity where I can help others and help the world.”