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Memology: Deciphering the Language of Internet Memes and its Use in Disinformation
16 May 2024

As part of ongoing research that aims to shed light on how emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the character of disinformation, the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) held a seminar on 16 May 2024 on “Memology: Deciphering the Language of Internet Memes and its Use in Disinformation via Artificial Intelligence”. The seminar was led by Usman Naseem, Assistant Professor at the School of Computing, Macquarie University, Australia, with Asha Hemrajani, Senior Fellow, CENS, being the moderator.

Memes are interesting and often humorous pictures that reflect social trends. Memology is the study of memes and their dissemination as well as impact. Memes play a vital role in online discourse. Over 80% of internet users report encountering memes daily, and 47% of internet users have reported sharing memes that they have found humorous. Some memes, however, can cause harm to individuals and communities, through their role in information warfare towards people and events.

The seminar focused on how some memes are being used to spread misinformation, harmful and hateful content, and how these memes can be identified. It also covered a number of meme research projects including the detection of harmful memes and the challenges involved.

The Russia invasion of Ukraine has become an arena in which memes have been deployed to spread disinformation online. Old images have been repurposed in memes to spread propaganda. Tiktok has also been used as a medium for the propagation of falsehoods, with the so-called “WarTok” being a space in which people have created and shared fake AI-generated content, including memes.

The identification of these memes is an important endeavour, as it would help to prevent their harmful effects on different communities. Memology aims to develop algorithms to detect and improve understanding of memes and their impact.

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