Computer Laboratory

Zafar Gilani

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About me

I am a Marie Curie ITN METRICS Early-Stage Researcher and a 3rd year PhD student (began September 2014) working on measuring and modelling the impact of automated programs (bots) on information propagation/dissemination in online social networks (OSNs). I am a part of the NetOS research group at the Computer Laboratory. I am also an associate member in some of the work and activities of the N4D group.

I did my undergrad in IT (BSIT) from NUST SEECS Islamabad, and graduate studies in Distributed Computing (EMDC/MSc) from UPC Barcelona and KTH Stockholm. I interned at Telefonica Research Barcelona for my MS dissertation. In between I was working as a visiting scientist at SLAC, Stanford for the PingER project.

I am a member at Selwyn College.

Supervisor: I'm being supervised by Prof. Jon Crowcroft.

External collaborations:
Institut Mines Telecom (Paris, France)
Information Technology University (Lahore, Pakistan)
Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lahore, Pakistan)

The Stweeler project

Stweeler at Github | Stweeler showcase: realtime graphs | Human annotation task | Twitter-bots datasets | Bots in press

I am working on (1) measuring and characterising, (2) detecting, and (3) modelling the impact of automated agents (or bots) on information propagation in online social networks (OSNs), particularly Twitter. For this purpose, I have developed Stweeler. The Stweeler project is aimed at studying usage, behaviour and impact of automated agents (bots, automated entities, automated agents) in online social networks (OSNs). We define and measure metrics in order to characterise bot behaviour that can be used directly for, but not limited to: (1) bot detection, and (2) modelling impact of bots on information propagation in OSNs. To model bot behaviour we will particularise influence in information cascades and community influence to study the impact of bots on social network structures and consequently the impact on information propagation. We will particularly answer if bots form super nodes, sit at critical paths, form largest connected subgraphs, and whether bots enable small world phenomenon in social graphs. For these purposes Stweeler has a module that collects and maintains massive amounts of Twitter data from the freely available Streaming API. Since Stweeler collects all of the tweets from the Streaming API, we can use this dataset for a number of other avenues of research, such as: sentiment analysis, sociopolitical analysis, among others.

Please find relevant papers below. Find articles in press and blogs covering bots on social media, particularly Twitter, here.

Publications

Books

2015 Deploying and Managing a Cloud Infrastructure: Real-World Skills for the CompTIA Cloud+ Certification and Beyond: Exam CV0-001
Zafar Gilani, Abdus Salam, and Salman Ul Haq.
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-118-87510-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-118-87558-2

Conferences

2017 The implications of Twitterbot generated data traffic on networked systems [pdf]
Zafar Gilani, Reza Farahbakhsh, Gareth Tyson, Jon Crowcroft.
[to appear] In 31st Annual Conference of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication (SIGCOMM'17). Los Angeles, California, USA.

2017 Classification of Twitter Accounts into Automated Agents and Human Users [pdf]
Zafar Gilani, Ekaterina Kochmar, Jon Crowcroft.
[to appear] In 9th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM'17). Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

2017 Of Bots and Humans (on Twitter) [pdf]
Zafar Gilani, Reza Farahbakhsh, Gareth Tyson, Liang Wang, Jon Crowcroft.
[to appear] In 9th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM'17). Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

2017 Do Bots impact Twitter activity? [pdf]
Zafar Gilani, Reza Farahbakhsh, Jon Crowcroft.
In 26th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW'17). Perth, Western Australia, Australia.

2017 Peer provided cell-like networks built out of thin air [pdf]
Andres Arcia-Moret, Zafar Gilani, Arjuna Sathiaseelan, and Jon Crowcroft.
In 14th IEEE Annual Consumer Communications & Networking Conference (CCNC'17). Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

2016 Sentiment analysis of controversial topics on Pakistan's Twitter user-base [pdf]
Sarim Zafar, Usman Sarwar, Zafar Gilani, Junaid Qadir.
In 7th ACM Symposium on Computing and Development (DEV'16). Nairobi, Kenya.

2016 Stweeler: A Framework for Twitter Bot Analysis [pdf]
Zafar Gilani, Mario Almeida, Reza Farahbakhsh, Liang Wang, Jon Crowcroft.
In 25th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW'16). Montreal, Québec, Canada.

2016 Inferring network infrastructural behaviour during disasters [pdf]
Zafar Gilani, Arjuna Sathiaseelan, Veljko Pejovic, and Jon Crowcroft.
In 13th IEEE Annual Consumer Communications & Networking Conference (CCNC'16). Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

2013 Is there a case for mobile phone content pre-staging? * Best Paper Award! * [pdf]
Alessandro Finamore, Marco Mellia, Zafar Gilani, Konstantina Papagiannaki, Vijay Erramilli, and Yan Grunenberger.
In Proceedings of the ninth ACM conference on Emerging networking experiments and technologies (CoNEXT'13). Santa Barbara, California, USA.

Technical reports

2017 An in-depth characterisation of Bots and Humans on Twitter [pdf]
In arXiv:1704.01508
Date published: 5 April 2017

2011 ICFA SCIC Monitoring Report [pdf]
R. Les Cottrell, Shawn McKee, Zafar Gilani.
In ICFA SCIC Monitoring WG
Caltech, California, USA.
Date published: 28 January 2011

Technical articles

2013 Deploying and managing scalable web services with Flume
Zafar Gilani.
In IBM developerWorks
Date published: 13 August 2013

2013 Analyzing large datasets with Hive
Zafar Gilani, and Salman Ul Haq.
In IBM developerWorks
Date published: 23 July 2013

Talks

2017 - July Bots on Twitter: Measuring, characterising and detecting automated agents on Online Social Networks
SRG Seminar at the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

2017 - May Bots on Twitter: Measuring, characterising and detecting automated agents on Online Social Networks
METRICS-ITN Final Workshop talk, Aalto University.

2016 - October Bots on Twitter [audio]
Cambridge Festival of Ideas, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge.

2016 - June Bots on Twitter
NetOS talklet at the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

2016 - May Stweeler: A framework for Twitter Bot Analysis
Minute Madness 2016 at the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

2016 - January Inferring network infrastructural behaviour during disasters
CCNC'16 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

Press and news

2015 Three Pakistani experts write first-ever book on cloud computing
In The News International
Date published: Saturday, August 29, 2015
From: Print Edition

Supervisions

2016 I'm supervising Part II students in Michaelmas Term for Principles of Communications.

2015 I'm supervising Part II students in Michaelmas Term for Principles of Communications.

Contact

Work address:
University of Cambridge
Computer Laboratory
William Gates Building
15 JJ Thomson Avenue
Cambridge CB3 0FD
UK

Office: FN07
Phone: +44 (0) 1223 763522
Email: zafar.gilani (AT) cl.cam.ac.uk