Julia Mendelsohn


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From Dogwhistles to Bullhorns: Unveiling Coded Rhetoric with Language Models
Julia Mendelsohn | Ronan Le Bras | Yejin Choi | Maarten Sap
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Dogwhistles are coded expressions that simultaneously convey one meaning to a broad audience and a second, often hateful or provocative, meaning to a narrow in-group; they are deployed to evade both political repercussions and algorithmic content moderation. For example, the word “cosmopolitan” in a sentence such as “we need to end the cosmopolitan experiment” can mean “worldly” to many but also secretly mean “Jewish” to a select few. We present the first large-scale computational investigation of dogwhistles. We develop a typology of dogwhistles, curate the largest-to-date glossary of over 300 dogwhistles with rich contextual information and examples, and analyze their usage in historical U.S. politicians’ speeches. We then assess whether a large language model (GPT-3) can identify dogwhistles and their meanings, and find that GPT-3’s performance varies widely across types of dogwhistles and targeted groups. Finally, we show that harmful content containing dogwhistles avoids toxicity detection, highlighting online risks presented by such coded language. This work sheds light on the theoretical and applied importance of dogwhistles in both NLP and computational social science, and provides resources to facilitate future research in modeling dogwhistles and mitigating their online harms.


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Challenges and Opportunities in Information Manipulation Detection: An Examination of Wartime Russian Media
Chan Young Park | Julia Mendelsohn | Anjalie Field | Yulia Tsvetkov
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

NLP research on public opinion manipulation campaigns has primarily focused on detecting overt strategies such as fake news and disinformation. However, information manipulation in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war exemplifies how governments and media also employ more nuanced strategies. We release a new dataset, VoynaSlov, containing 38M+ posts from Russian media outlets on Twitter and VKontakte, as well as public activity and responses, immediately preceding and during the 2022 Russia-Ukraine war. We apply standard and recently-developed NLP models on VoynaSlov to examine agenda setting, framing, and priming, several strategies underlying information manipulation, and reveal variation across media outlet control, social media platform, and time. Our examination of these media effects and extensive discussion of current approaches’ limitations encourage further development of NLP models for understanding information manipulation in emerging crises, as well as other real-world and interdisciplinary tasks.


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Modeling Framing in Immigration Discourse on Social Media
Julia Mendelsohn | Ceren Budak | David Jurgens
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

The framing of political issues can influence policy and public opinion. Even though the public plays a key role in creating and spreading frames, little is known about how ordinary people on social media frame political issues. By creating a new dataset of immigration-related tweets labeled for multiple framing typologies from political communication theory, we develop supervised models to detect frames. We demonstrate how users’ ideology and region impact framing choices, and how a message’s framing influences audience responses. We find that the more commonly-used issue-generic frames obscure important ideological and regional patterns that are only revealed by immigration-specific frames. Furthermore, frames oriented towards human interests, culture, and politics are associated with higher user engagement. This large-scale analysis of a complex social and linguistic phenomenon contributes to both NLP and social science research.

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Detecting Community Sensitive Norm Violations in Online Conversations
Chan Young Park | Julia Mendelsohn | Karthik Radhakrishnan | Kinjal Jain | Tushar Kanakagiri | David Jurgens | Yulia Tsvetkov
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Online platforms and communities establish their own norms that govern what behavior is acceptable within the community. Substantial effort in NLP has focused on identifying unacceptable behaviors and, recently, on forecasting them before they occur. However, these efforts have largely focused on toxicity as the sole form of community norm violation. Such focus has overlooked the much larger set of rules that moderators enforce. Here, we introduce a new dataset focusing on a more complete spectrum of community norms and their violations in the local conversational and global community contexts. We introduce a series of models that use this data to develop context- and community-sensitive norm violation detection, showing that these changes give high performance.


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Using Sentiment Induction to Understand Variation in Gendered Online Communities
Li Lucy | Julia Mendelsohn
Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistics (SCiL) 2019