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Professor Matthew L. Williams

Professor Matthew L. Williams

Chair in Criminology - School of Social Sciences, Director - ESRC Social Data Science Lab, Director - ESRC HateLab

School of Social Sciences

Email
williamsm7@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44(0) 29 2087 4853
Campuses
2.28, Glamorgan Building
Comment
Media commentator
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

I am Director of HateLab and the Social Data Science Lab, and Professor of Criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University. My main areas of research activity are:

  • Hate Crime, Hate Speech and Extremism Online
  • Computational Social Science
  • Cybercrime / Human Factors in Cybersecurity

Hate Crime, Hate Speech and Extremism Online

I have a long-standing interest in hate crime and the migration of all forms of hate to the Internet.  In 2013 the 'Hate Speech and Social Media' project (funder: ESRC, partner: Google) extended my work in this area to social media, with papers including 'Tweeting the Terror: Modelling the Social Media Reaction to the Woolwich Terrorist Attack', Social Network Analysis and Mining and ‘Cyberhate on Social Media in the Aftermath of Woolwich’, British Journal of Criminology. In 2017 I was successful in establishing HateLab, a £1.3 million Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) investment over several grants that acts as a global hub for data and insight into online and offline hate crime.  The latest grant under this initiative is 'HateLab Dashboard', funded via the ESRC Big Data Network. Other notable grants include 'Hate Crime After Brexit' (funder: ESRC Governance After Brexit Programme, partner: Behavioural Insights Team) and 'Understanding Online Hate Speech as a Motivator for Hate Crime' (funder: US Department of Justice, partner: Rand Corporation). HateLab publications appear in both criminology and computer science journals. I was lead author on the major report on regulating online hate speech published by law firm Mishcon de Reya.

HateLab has been covered in the LA TimesNew York PostThe Times (also here and here), The Financial TimesThe IndependentThe GuardianTelegraph (also here), TortoiseNew ScientistPoliticoBBC NewsThe RegisterComputerWeeklyVerdictSky NewsTechWorld and Police Professional.  On TV our research has underpinned an episode of BBC One's Panorama, an episode of ITV's Exposure, and an ITV NEWS special report.

The HateLab programme of work emerged out of the 2010-13 'All Wales Hate Crime Project' (funder: Big Lottery, partner: Race Equality First). This remains the largest and most comprehensive dedicated academic study of hate crime conducted within the UK, surveying over 1800 respondents, interviewing over 60 victims across all recognised strands (race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity) and reaching out to over 5000 community members via a dedicated project officer.  This project built upon my previous two studies into homophobic hate crimes in Wales (Stonewall Cymru Counted Out! Survey 2003 & Counted In! Survey 2007). The Big Lottery project achieved outstanding impact.  The findings were received by the Wales Minister for Communities at the project launch in the National Assembly for Wales and formed the key source of evidence for the Welsh Government's Framework for Action on Tackling Hate Crime. The key findings from the project were published in the British Journal of Criminology.  

Computational Social Science

I am Director of the Social Data Science Lab that forms part of the £64M ESRC Big Data Network for the Social Sciences.  The Lab core team and Research Fellow are supported by the grant 'Social Data Science Lab: Methods and Infrastructure Development for Open Data Analytics in Social Research' (ESRC (2017-2020), and a new large grant, 'Understanding [Offline/Online] Society: Linking Surveys with Twitter Data', (ESRC) extends our work until 2023.  I was a lead on the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS) programme of work (2011-2015).  Both the Lab and COSMOS represent the largest investment in social media research in the UK (funded by ESRC, EPSRC, JISC, DoH, Supercomputing Wales, Welsh Government, Metropolitan Police Service, Airbus and Admiral Insurance at ~£5M).  I was Principal Investigator on the founding COSMOS grant 'Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities: A demonstration of COSMOS' (ESRC Digital Social Research Programme) and the follow on grant 'Social Media and Prediction: Crime Sensing, Data Integration and Statistical Modeling' (ESRC/National Centre for Research Methods Methodological Innovation Project).  

I also played a major role as a Co-Investigator on the following complete computational social science grants: 'Understanding the Role of Social Media in the Aftermath of Youth Suicides' (Department of Health for England); 'Public Perceptions of the UK Food System: Public Understanding and Engagement, and the Impact of Crises and Scares' (ESRC & Food Standards Agency); 'Digital Wildfires: (Mis)information Flows, Propagation & Responsible Governance' (ESRC Global Uncertainties Ethics and Rights in Security); 'Detecting Tension and Cohesion in Local Communities with Social Media' (Airbus Group); 'High Performance Computing, Scalability and Big 'Social' Data' (Supercomputing Wales);  'Supporting Empirical Social Science Research with a Virtual Research Environment' (JISC); 'Event Detection using Open Source Communications' (Airbus Group); 'Investigating the link between social media activity and reporting crime' (Metropolitan Police Service Centre for Scientific and Engineering Excellence); and 'The 2016 Welsh Election Study: A Study of the 2016 Election to the National Assembly for Wales' (ESRC).  

Before my computational social science work I was involved in the Cardiff Digital Ethnography and Hypermedia research programme (with Atkinson, Coffey & Dicks) as Co-Investigator on 'Ethnography for the Digital Age' (ESRC) and 'Methods and Issues in Qualitative Online Data Sharing and Archiving' (ESRC Qualitative Archiving & Data Sharing).  On the topic of computational social science I have published in the major social science methodology journals (SociologyQualitative Research, International Journal of Social Research Methodology (IJSRM), Sociological Research Online, Methodological Innovations and Building Research Capacity) and have edited a special issue of IJSRM on Computational Social Science: Theory, Method and Data.  I have also written the Digital Social Research chapters in the leading methodology textbooks in criminology including 'Doing Criminological Research' (Jupp: Sage); 'Doing Research on Crime and Justice' (King & Wincup: Oxford) and 'Online Social Research: Methods, Issues & Ethics' (Chen & Hall: Peter Lang).  In 2013 I was awarded a 12 month Cardiff University Research Leave Fellowship to further develop my work in this area and to establish international links with Rutgers University, Duke University and Twitter US.

Cybercrime and Human Factors in Cybersecurity

I have applied my significant amount of digital methodology work to the study of cybercrime, that formed the focus of my PhD thesis. In 2010 I was successful in capturing a ground-breaking research grant 'e-Crime Reduction Partnership Mapping Study' (with Levi) from Nominet Trust. The project was championed by the Rt. Hon. Alun Michael MP and the findings were launched at Westminster to MPs and industry. Our recommendations highlighted the need for a UK cybercrime reduction partnership and in 2013 HMG's Cybercrime Reduction Partnership was formed and I was invited to join as one of only two academics. The research was presented at a keynote address, and at conferences in Europe and Australia and published as two journal papers and one book chapter.  In 2013 I was a key player in the successful capture of the RCUK Global Uncertainties Consortia for Exploratory Research into Cyber Security grant 'Identifying and Modelling Victim, Business, Regulatory and Malware Behaviours in a Changing Cyberthreat Landscape' (£1.2M).  In 2018 I was part of the core team that won a large grant under the ESRC PaCCS Transnational Organised Crime call: How Online Technologies are Transforming Transnational Organised Crime (Cyber-TNOC).  I have published extensively in this area in high profile international journals including: British Journal of Criminology, Deviant Behavior, Criminology & Criminal Justice, Policing & Society, Security Journal, Journal of Sexual Aggression, Information Management & Computer Security and International Review of Law, Computers & Technology. Recently I edited the special issue of Policing and Society entitled: Policing Cybercrime: Networked and Social Media Technologies and the Challenges for Policing.  I have written chapters in several key criminology textbooks and edited collections on the topic, including 'Criminology' (Hayle et al.: Oxford); 'Handbook of Crime' (Brookman et al.: Willan); 'Handbook of Internet Crime' (Jewkes & Yar: Willan); and 'Crime & the Internet' (Wall: Routledge). My book, Virtually Criminal published by Routledge was short listed for the British Sociological Association's Philip Abrams Memorial Book Prize in 2007.  In 2013 I was invited by James Brokenshire, then Minister for Security, and David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science to join, as one of only two academics, HMG's Cyber Crime Reduction Partnership. In 2014 I was invited by Professor Sir Alan Wilson, Chair of the Home Office Science Advisory Committee, to join HMG's Costs of Cybercrime International Expert Advisory Group. I am currently conducting an analysis of fear of cybercrime for the Home Office.  I also currently act as an expert reviewer for the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Board of Physical Sciences Cyber Security Programme.  I have been an academic reviewer on HMG's Office for Science Foresight project 'Future of Identity', an academic advisor to the ACPO/College of Policing project 'National Assessment on threats and opportunities posed by the use of Global Digital Communication Technologies', and an academic advisor to the DTI foresight programme and the eCrime Wales Project.

Interdisciplinarity is a key feature of my research and I have worked with members of staff in the schools of Computer Science, Psychology, Law, Business, Mathematics and Dentistry. I have been successful in gaining grants from the ESRC, EPSRC, AHRC, JISC, Big Lottery Fund, Welsh Government, Nominet Trust, Stonewall Cymru, TUC Wales, Safer Wales, Department of Health, Food Standards Agency, Google, US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, High Performance Computing Wales/Fujitsu and the Airbus Group. My research income to date is in excess of £6M.

I am member of the ESRC's Peer Review College and I sit on the Editorial Boards for British Journal of Criminology, EPJ: Data Science and Journal of Computational Social Science.

Employment:

  • 2015 - present: Professor (full), Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
  • 2013-2015: Reader, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
  • 2007-2013: Senior Lecturer, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
  • 2004-2007: Lecturer, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

Over the last decade I have formed an international reputation for my interdisciplinary research in the fields of Cybercrime, Cyberhate & Computational Social Science.

Summary of Key Achievements:

  • Grant capture totalling over £8.7M over 40 projects, 22 of which are from RCUK amounting to over £6M. I was/am currently PI on 15
  • Invited speaker at 50 US, Australian, Asian & European conferences and a delegate at 23 others
  • PI on the HateLab initiative, a £1M ESRC investment
  • PI on the Online Hate Speech Project ($886K) funded by the National Institute for Justice, US Department of Justice
  • PI on the All Wales Hate Crime Project (£570K) that was used as key evidence in the Welsh Government’s Hate Crime Framework 2014 and continues to shape national policy
  • Solely represented the Social Data Science Lab in visits to Rutgers, Duke & Twitter US
  • Invited to speak at Cambridge Institute of Criminology Public Seminar Series in 2015
  • ESRC sponsored delegate at the EU Trans-Atlantic Workshop on Big Data in DC, US
  • Appointed to ESRC’s Peer Review College and Social Media Research Working Group
  • Appointed by Sir Alan Wilson to Home Office Cybercrime International Advisory Group
  • Invited by James Brokenshire, Minister for Security, and David Willets, Minister for Universities to join HMG’s Cybercrime Reduction Partnership in 2013
  • Editor of British Society of Criminology house journal and guest editor of 2 special issues

Contributions to the Field: I sit on the Editorial Boards for British Journal of Criminology, EPJ: Data Science and Journal of Computational Social Science.  I was co-editor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the international peer-reviewed journal of the British Society of Criminology.  I am a reviewer for many international journals including Criminology (US). I have reviewed grant applications for the ESRC, EPSRC and the Nuffield Foundation and in was invited to act as an expert reviewer for the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. I was also invited to participate as an Expert Evaluator on the Horizon 2020 Digital Security Call and was recently made a member of the ESRC’s Peer Review College and their Social Media Working Group. I have launched findings in the National Assembly for Wales, and in Westminster to MPs, Google, Facebook & Twitter. I was invited by the Ministers for Security and Universities & Science to join HMG’s Cybercrime Reduction Partnership, was appointed by Professor Sir Alan Wilson, Chair of the Home Office Science Advisory Committee to HMG’s Costs of Cybercrime International Expert Advisory Group, and was adviser to HMG’s Office for Science ‘Future of Identity’ project, to ACPO’s ‘National Cybercrime Assessment’, to DTI’s ‘Foresight e-Crime Project’ and to WG’s ‘eCrime Project’. I provided evidence at a WG disability hate crime inquiry, at the EHRC Disability Inquiry, and at HMG’s Parliamentary IT Committee. I have provided interviews to the media (ITV & BBC), to the US public journal Scientific American and my work on big data has appeared in the ESRC magazines Britain in 2015 & 2016.

Honours and awards

  • My book, Virtually Criminal published by Routledge was short listed for the British Sociological Association's Philip Abrams Memorial Book Prize in 2007

Professional memberships

  • Member of the British Society of Criminology
  • Member of the European Society of Criminology
  • Member of the American Society of Criminology

External Engagement

Appointed to ESRC's Peer Review College and Social Media Working Group to shape strategy
ESRC sponsored delegate at the EU Trans-Atlantic Workshop on Big Data in DC, US
Editor of British Society of Criminology house journal and guest editor of 2 special issues
Invited to participate as an Expert Evaluator on the Horizon 2020 Digital Security Call
Appointed by Prof. Sir Alan Wilson to Home Office Costs of Cybercrime International Advisory Group
Appointed to organising committee for Web Science Trust (WST) Singapore Summer School and asked to present and represent COSMOS by Prof. Dame Wendy Hall
Reviewer for the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Cyber Security Programme
Invited by James Brokenshire (Minister for Security) and David Willets (Minister for Universities) to join as one of only two academics HMG's Cyber Crime Reduction Partnership in 2013
Adviser to HMG's Office for Science 'Future of Identity' project
Adviser to ACPO's 'National Cybercrime Assessment'
Adviser to DTI's 'Foresight e-Crime Project'
Adviser to WG's 'eCrime Project'
Adviser to WG disability hate crime inquiry
Adviser to Equality and Human Rights Committee Disability Inquiry
Adviser to Equality and Human Rights Committee Homophobic Hate Crime Reporting Programme
Adviser to HMG's Parliamentary IT Committee

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Undergraduate Teaching

  • Foundations of Contemporary Criminology (Yr 1)
  • Offending and Victimisation (Yr 2)
  • Responses to Crime (Yr 2)
  • Policing: Theory, Evidence and Policy (Yr 3)
  • Criminolgical Practice (Yr 3)
  • Diversity, Crime and Criminal Justice (Yr 3)
  • Digital Society: Theory, Method and Data (Yr 3)

Postgraduate Teaching

  • Researching Crime, Safety and Justice
  • Responses to Crime, Safety and Justice
  • Open Data Analytics with COSMOS (SSRM Workshop)

I am currently external examiner at the University of Edinburgh, Open University and University of the West of England, Bristol. I was external at the University of Hull.

As Principal Investigator

As Co-Investigator

I am interested in supervising postgraduate degrees in the following areas: Cybercrime, Hate Crime, Policing, Social Media

Current and past PhD Supervision:

  • Louise Madden - Women's use of the Internet (Complete)
  • Penny Miles - Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Citizenship in Latin America (Complete)
  • Mike Thomas - Civil Partnership Unions in Canada, US and UK (Complete)
  • Matt Jones - Occupational Experiences of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Police Officers (Complete)
  • Will Chivers - Online Counter Surveillance (Complete)
  • Liam Rowley - Virtual Worlds and Art Education (Complete)
  • Ian Thomas - Men Who Have Sex with Men and Mobile Technologies (Complete)
  • Heather Panter - Heteronormativity and Homophobia in US and UK Policing (Complete)
  • Daniel Gray - Misogyny on Social Media (Year 4)
  • Lisa Calloway - Surveillance and Social Media (Year 4)
  • Luke Roach - Governance of Cyberhate on Social Media (Year 3)
  • Scott Kerpen - Social Construction of Sexual Orientation on Social Media (Year 3)
  • Arron Cullen - Police use of Social Media (Year 3)
  • Sefa Ozlap - Reactions on Social Media to Terrorist Attacks (Year 2)
  • Wafa Sloaiman M Alorainy - Classification of Cyberhate on Social Media (Year 2)
  • Erik Cheeks - Illicit Drug Flows (Year 2)
  • Simon White - Estimating Crime Patterns using Open Source Communications (Year 2)
  • Ben Foster - Measuring Online and Offline Community Tension and Hate (Year 1)
  • Jodie Luker - Attitudes Towards LGBT Individuals Expressed in Online Social Networks (Year 1)
  • Jack Challinor-Jones - Understanding the Impacts of Online Hate Speech on LGBT Victims (Year 1)