William Dance

Senior Research Associate, PhD student

Research Interests

Keywords: disinformation; misinformation; deception; manipulation; social media.

My primary research interest is using corpus linguistic approaches to investigate deception and manipulation in online spaces. My research focuses on how people manipulate others linguistically and also how, on the internet, ideas spread from their inception until they cease to exist.

My PhD thesis, 'Discourses of Disinformation', uses corpus approaches to study the replication and reception of online disinformation (fake news). It focuses on how people share misinformation and disinformation online to legitimise their views and on public understandings of key terms such as disinformation and misinformation. In my research I use both historical and contemporary datasets to track discourses of disinformation from the 16th century to present day.

In 2019 I seconded to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as a Counter Online Manipulation Policy Advisor and have since worked with GCHQ/NCSC, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and various factchecking and news organisations. In 2020 I was selected by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as having generated the most PhD impact in the North West.

I am also a Senior Research Associate in the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) at Lancaster University working on the ‘Questioning Vaccination Discourse’ project (Quo VaDis).

The Quo VaDis team aims to achieve a better understanding of how the public view vaccinations by using large-scale computer-aided discourse analysis to investigate how the press, public, and policymakers talk about vaccines. This will help us to better understand both pro- and anti-vaccine belief in Britain and across the world.

The project has three main partners (UK Health Security Agency; the Department of Health and Social Care; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) and through these partnerships we will feed into future public health campaigns for both adult and childhood vaccination, helping to develop evidence-based policy responses.