Monday, May 7, 2018

Interview on Internet Romance Fraud on BBC's Why Factor


I was interviewed for this BBC podcast some weeks ago  on internet romance scams in India. I am around 11:18 min onward.The topic for this podcast is ‘Romance Frauds.’ I was invited to share my research on internet romance scams in low income communities in India where young males are being scammed by fake profiles of attractive women as they get on Facebook through their mobile phones. In contexts such as these where dating is forbidden to the extent that even talking to a girl can impact her reputation, Facebook promises romance for these teens as well as new ways to being deceived and even exploited.

Basically, this is the synopsis of the episodeWhy do people fall for online romance frauds? With false online profiles, doctored photographs, and convincing background stories, online fraudsters target people who are looking for love and online relationships. Once they have hooked their victims, they set about stealing money from them. But what convinces people that their new relationship is so realistic that they become willing to hand over large amounts of money to someone who they may never meet. Shari Vahl explores why people fall for such frauds, hearing the stories of two women and the online relationship they believed would bring them a new future – and which turned out to be an costly false hope. Shari hears from cyber-psychology expert Monica Whitty and people hacker Jennifer Radcliffe, as well as from police in the UK and USA. What are the hooks that these international criminal gangs use to defraud their victims and what happens when victims discover that the truth about their online relationship.




Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Internet academic scams: why do scholars fall for them?

The open access initiative, whilst being a worthwhile alternative to exploitative publishing models, has also opened the doors to bogus journals and other predators.
Last year I received an email from someone who claimed to be part of a foundation that  tackles romance scams. It started like this:
“To Dr Payal Arora,
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is X. I am also a victim of a cyber crime, a romance scam stemming from Nigeria. The reason I am contacting you is to bring attention to cyber crime, more specifically romance scams. Cyber exploits of this nature target mostly women, to lure them emotionally. Exploiting that vulnerability is what the con artists know best…As we speak, I am preparing for a trial to be heard in Abuja Nigeria…”
What did this person want from me?
She wanted me to be on the board of her cybercrime foundation to raise money. She shared the names of prominent academics and professionals already on the board.
While this email appeared legitimate, what struck me was how closely the text of the email resembled a paper my colleague and I had just published a week before on Internet romance scams. To be sure, I contacted one of the board members and got this as part of his reply:
“…I should say I do not know the person you are talking about and I have yet to be contacted for anything related to such. As it sounds, I think it is not legitimate since this is an obvious lie.”
Admittedly, this email was not an instant delete for me.
In retrospect, this was an impressive feat by what I call the “Internet academic scammer.” To use the language from my publication and customise the email accordingly, invoking real experts for the board for the purpose of credibility, was altogether brilliant. Not to forget, how could we miss the irony here on ‘scams?’
Click here for the full article

Monday, April 23, 2018

Opinion Piece: EM Magazine

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Keynote talk at the University of Saltzburg


I have been invited to deliver a keynote address for the Democracy and (Des-) Information Society: On the Function and Dissemination of Big Data, Fake News and Conspiracy Theories” Conference to be held at the University of Salzburg on April 26th, 2018. This conference investigates "fake news" and the growing influence of social media and search engine technologies on political life. Among other things, the conference will focus on the following questions: Which forms of disinformation exist and how do they differ? Is there actually a new quality of manipulation? What opportunities, challenges and limitations are associated with big data analysis? How do digital technologies and the practices they facilitate change the culture of communication and knowledge production in democratic societies? Which forms of foreign and self-regulation are meaningful and desirable in order to put a stop to disinformational tendencies but at the same time make use of progressive potentials of new communication technologies?




I will speak about the major fault lines in worldviews between groups of people to a point where entire publics have become incomprehensible to one another. By going beyond the usual Western examples and worldviews, I will situate common conversations on hate speech, fake information, trolling and other hostile activities within the Global South. This talk will examine closely the “fringe,” “authentic,” and “safe” digital cultures, drawing on contemporary examples like the media circulation on Rohingas by Buddhist extremists in Myanmar, lynching by cow digital vigilantes in India, favela rebranding and the pacification campaign in Brazil to the building and global circulation of the “Nigerian” romance scammer.

This conference is timely as there is much hype in the media on fake news without actually qualifying what constitutes as fake and real and who gets to narrate these framings.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Opinion Piece: EM magazine

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Invited talks in Delhi, Manchester and Paris

What a packed but exciting month. Just came back from New Delhi after a stimulating workshop with a group of interdisciplinary scholars and activists at the IIIT Delhi campus. This international Symposium on Digital Politics in Millennial India is part of a larger project on politics in digital India by Sahana Udupa at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Here, I spoke about the impact of datafication and bots in the political life of low-income communities in India. While these talks were going on, the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University staff and students were on strike due to policies from the government that was infringing on their academic autonomy. There were also a number of scholars from the United Kingdom who were also in the midst of the largest academic strike over pensions and the growing privatization and commodification of education. This was a humble reminder about how knowledge is deeply political and how we need to continuously struggle to keep it protected from such infringements.

After which, I am giving a talk at the EHESS seminar "Etudier les cultures du numérique" (Studying Digital Cultures) on 'mobilizing the ludic underclass in the digital age.' 

Lastly, I will be heading shortly to Manchester with Linnea Thompson to present our paper on crowdsourcing as a potential tool to reorganize and reformulate global unions and transparent communicative practices between laborers and brands. This workshop Development Implications of Digital Economies: Findings and Next Steps is the last of the Development Implications of Digital Economies (DIODE) Strategic Research Network.




Thursday, March 1, 2018

Selected to be a ZeMKI Visiting Research Fellow

I just got news that I have been selected for the ZeMKI Visiting Research Fellowship in Media, Communication and Information. My application was selected out of a received 107 applications in total for 2018. The duration of this fellowship will be a month in the Fall 2018.

The ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen, offers a thriving interdisciplinary research environment in the areas of media, communication and information. Involved disciplines include communication and media studies, computer science, cultural studies, educational science, studies in religion, and history.

As a ZeMKI Visiting Research Fellow, I will be involved with the research activities at the interdisciplinary centre with over 60 members. I plan on contributing to these research activities in the area of media change and transforming communications in the form of a research paper for the“Communicative Figurations” working paper series as well as a lecture in the ZeMKI Research Seminar.

Really looking forward to this new adventure with some cool people.

Besides, given the timing, would be a wonderful finale to go to the Christmas market here :)