Deb Roy

Visiting Professor of Law

Fall 2021


Deb Roy is Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT where he directs the MIT Center for Constructive Communication, and from 2019-2021 served as Executive Director of the MIT Media Lab. He leads research in applied machine learning and human-machine interaction with applications in designing systems for learning and constructive dialogue, and for mapping and analyzing large scale media ecosystems. Deb is also co-founder and Chair of Cortico, a nonprofit social technology company that develops and operates the Local Voices Network to surface underheard voices and bridge divides.

Roy was co-founder and CEO of Bluefin Labs, a media analytics company that analyzed the interactions between television and social media at scale. Bluefin was acquired by Twitter in 2013, Twitter’s largest acquisition of the time. From 2013-2017 Roy served as Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist.

As an advocate for the design and use of technology for social good, Deb has served on the Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy, and currently serves on the Aspen Institute's Commission on Information Disorder.

He is the author of over 160 academic papers including a study of the spread of false news that was the cover of Science magazine in 2018 and one of the most influential academic publications of the year. Roy's widely-viewed TED talk Birth of a Word presents his research on his son’s language development that led to new ideas in media analytics, while his 2021 talk envisions a new kind of social platform for a stronger democracy.

A native of Canada, Roy received his Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Waterloo and PhD in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT.

Areas of Interest

Anneli Hershman, Juliana Nazaré, Ivan Sysoev, Lauren Fratamico, Juanita Buitrago, Mina Soltangheis, Sneha Makini, Eric Chu & Deb Roy, Family Learning Coach: Engaging Families in Children’s Early Literacy Learning with Computer-Supported Tools, in Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on Computers in Education 637-646 (Nov 2018).
Family Law
Education Law
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Presentation
Literacy learning is an inherently social activity, best learned within a supportive community network of parents, teachers, and peers who can encourage, model, and coach the child through the learning process. However, most digital literacy tools for beginning readers fail to include this social dimension. In response, we propose the design of a computer-supported community network for children’s early literacy learning. This network, centered around children’s play on open-ended literacy apps, engages three stakeholders—child, parent, and family learning coach—in the experience. This new coaching role supports the parent-child dyad, using digital tools to provide parents with updates on their child’s on-screen learning process, ideas for contextualized parent-child activities, and encouragement in a timely and efficient manner. Initial findings from our exploratory pilot indicate that parents positively perceived the coaches, while coaches’ updates increased parent visibility into and informed the content of children’s play sessions. This work has implications for both the potential of digitally mediated community networks to facilitate family engagement in children’s learning, and the development of a new, supportive role of a family learning coach in the child’s learning community.
Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy & Sinan Aral, The Spread of True and False News Online, 359 Science 1146 (Mar 9 2018).
Technology & Law
Networked Society
Communications Law
Type: Article
We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

Current Courses

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