Eni Mustafaraj is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Wellesley College (since 2014). She joined Wellesley in 2008 initially as a visiting scholar and later as a Norma Wilentz Hess Fellow (2010-2013). Dr. Mustafaraj received her PhD in Computer Science (2007) from the Philipps University of Marbug in Germany. She is a native of Albania, a country that suffered extreme isolation under a communist, totalitarian regime from 1944-1991. Life in Albania made her experience first-hand the effects of misinformation, propaganda, and ideological brainwashing and she felt a victim of them for a long time. This is why since 2008, she has been studying how web platforms (e.g., Google, Twitter, and Facebook) can be manipulated by different actors in ways that are damaging to our democracies. Her co-authored paper, From Obscurity to Prominence in Minutes: Political Speech and Real-Time Search, which won the Best Paper prize at the Web Science Conference in 2010, contains the first ever documented use of Twitter bots to attack a political candidate during an election. Joined by a group of Wellesley undergraduates in the Wellesley Cred Lab, she is currently studying signals that can be used to evaluate the credibility of online sources on the Web, and tools that will make these signals available to web users and increase their web literacy skills. For this particular research project she was awarded a five-year CAREER grant by the NSF.
It's difficult to put in words all the conflicting feelings and thoughts related to my past in Albania. People living in western democracies also find it difficult to comprehend how 50 years of isolation make it so challenging to build a functional democracy. My native country has been struggling for a long time and democracy continues to be a very fragile project. Here are randomly ordered news articles that shed some light into the strangeness of my country, its troubled past and uncertain future.
In Albania, a Capital Full of Contradictions. July 9, 2006. In the New York Times.
As Albania Reckons With Its Communist Past, Critics Say It’s Too Late. Feb 26, 2017. In the New York Times.
Stop Albania's Self-Destruction. Jan 26, 2011. In the New York Times.
Albanian Custom Fades: Woman as Family Man. June 25, 2008. In the New York Times. The story in this article served as inspiration to the actress Glenn Close when preparing for the movie Alfred Nobbs (2011).
Casting Light on Little-Known Story of Albania Rescuing Jews From Nazis. Nov 19, 2013. In the New York Times.
Leading a dark mission to Albania's Fields of Bones (book review). Sep 30, 2008. In the New York Times. This is a review of the 1963's novel by the most successful Albanian author, Ismail Kadare, titled The General of the Dead Army.
Ramiz Alia, an Enforcer for a Dictator and Later Ruler of Albania, Dies at 85. Oct 7, 2011. In the New York Times.
The Capital of Albania Has Transformed Into a Lively, Affordable Destination. Oct 13, 2017. In the Vogue.
I believe that we all have a role to play in the debate about how computational technology affects our society, and how we can build web technologies that support human agency, instead of eroding it through algorithmic decicion-making. I write about such topics to inform and educate the broad public on the risks of lack of transparency and accountability by the tech platforms. Below is some of my public writing.