The recent US elections have brought forward allegations of fraud with some stakeholders, both within and outside the US, using Benford's Law to support their allegations. We are pleased to invite you to a webinar hosted by the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking. Prof Golbeck will talk on Benford's Law and its applicability to fraud. Recently, she was featured on Episode 4 of "Connected" on Netflix talking about Benford's Law. This talk, as with all our webinars, is open to all. Please feel free to pass this information about the webinar to others who may be interested, including students and interested parties outside the university.

Title: Using Benford’s Law to detect bots, social media fraud, but maybe not election fraud 


Speakers: Jen Golbeck (University of Maryland) 


When: Thursday 12 November, 14h00 - 15h00 (SAST) 

Where: Please email dataschool@sun.ac.za​​​ for a Zoom link. 



Benford’s Law is a statistical rule that says, in some systems, the distribution of first significant digits (the first digit in a number) follows a known pattern. Numbers starting with 1 occur around 30% of the time, decreasing to numbers beginning with 9 only occurring around 5% of the time. This rule is so reliable that it can be used in court as evidence of financial fraud. Our work has shown it can also help detect bots and like fraud on social media. More recently, questions have been asked by some Trump supporters in the US about using Benford’s Law to detect election fraud, but the evidence for that is far more mixed. 




Jennifer Golbeck is a Professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. Her research focuses on artificial intelligence and social media, privacy, malicious social media behaviour, and trust on the web. She has a PhD in computer science from the University of Maryland and degrees in computer science and economics from the University of Chicago. 

​​Past webinars

14-10-2020: Modeling and Analysis of Viral Spread under a Multiple-strain Model with Mutations by Prof H Vincent Poor, Michael Henry Strater University Professor at Princeton UniversityClick here​​ for a video of the presentation.​

30-09-2020: Importation and establishment of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK by Dr Louis du Plessis, Department of Zoology, Oxford University. Click here​​ for a video of the presentation.​

16-09-2020: Brain Sentiment Indicator by Dr Matteo Campellone, Executive Chairman and Head of Research of Brain Company.

10-09-2020: Stellenbosch University​ Hackathon: Data Science Challenge and Solution by Ms Claudia Di Santolo, Mr Ulrich Kotze, Mr Thamu Mnyulwa and Mr Niel van Zyl. Click here​​ for a video of the presentation.​

27-08-2020: Blockchain Incentives for Deep Data Mining by Prof G-J van Rooyen. Click here​​ for a video of the presentation.​

12-08-2020: Supply chain data science: from raw data to business impact by Prof J Grobler. Click here​​ for a video of the presentation.

02-07-2020: “Listening in” on conflict: Data science challenges and opportunities in the assessment of the political economy of conflict​ by Prof Ganson. Click here​​ for a video of the presentation.

19-05-2020: A Rapid Responsible Innovation Tool by Prof Grobbelaar, Dr Meyer and Ms Conning.