Posted on August 1, 2023 by Rebekah Alegria

Nishant Vishwamitra, assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems and Cyber Security at the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Computer and Information Science and Engineering Research Initiation Initiative research grant totaling $175,000.

Nishant Vishwamirta Awarded to support promising new faculty in jumpstarting their academic research careers, Vishwamitra will be using the grant to focus on various aspects of emerging cybersecurity threats such as cyberbullying, cyber harassment, online offensiveness and more.

“We believe that our methods pave the way forward to make online spaces safer from the negative effects of hate speech that are engendered by rapidly evolving events,” stated Vishwamitra.

Drawing inspiration from real-world societal issues, Vishwamitra’s research delves into the relationship between social cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI). He focuses on how AI can address cybersecurity issues like hate speech and misinformation, and how technology can exacerbate certain cybersecurity and social-cybersecurity issues.

Hate speech such as racism and antisemitism have commonalities amongst many online platforms. But the pandemonium escalated further as the COVID-19 pandemic brought forth new waves of online hate in the forms of anti-Asian ideologies and ageism.

Nishant and his research colleagues are working to develop better defensive content moderation systems. Their solution is to develop machine learning techniques that can be trained by using only a few samples of hate speech, called few-shot learning. He and his team hope that large social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube will utilize them to update the platforms’ hate speech moderation systems to address these issues in a more timely manner. His goal is that this work can reduce the psychological and social trauma that certain minorities and underrepresented groups face on online platforms.

Joining the college’s business faculty in 2022, Vishwamitra teaches network security and is also driven to share his knowledge of AI and social cybersecurity with underrepresented minorities and high school students through carefully developed hands-on labs. He has developed six hands-on labs that are currently being implemented in other universities and high schools nationwide.

“We are also working on developing experiential learning educational materials based on our work, that will train high school and college students to defend against new waves of hate,” he explained.

Along with his current research, Vishwamitra is working on related projects such as addressing the large-scale hate speech and mis/dis-information caused by large language models such as ChatGPT and educating students on the social harms of generative AI and how systematic biases affect the veracity of crowdsourcing.

“This grant will help me recruit Ph.D. students to conduct experiments, pay study participants and attend conferences and workshops to disseminate the findings that come from this research,” he said.

With an undergraduate background in electrical engineering from India, Vishwamitra completed his graduate studies at Clemson University and obtained his Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from SUNY in Buffalo, New York.

— Rebekah Alegria