Hot Topic: Weaponizing Social Media: Trolling and the Manufacture of Opinion (G6)

Date/Time: Tuesday, July 17, 2018: 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Speakers: Dennis Kim-Prieto, Rutgers Law School; Sheri H. Lewis, University of Chicago D’Angelo Law Library; Asta Zelenkauskaite, Drexel University Department of Communication; Pablo Molina, Drexel University

We’re all familiar with the casual internet troll, posting inflammatory messages to disrupt online discussion. But in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, the “Kremlin troll” gained notoriety as a collective of organized, state-sponsored, anonymous internet political commentators and trolls linked to the Russian government. These web brigades deluge familiar social media spaces with propaganda—often disguised as legitimate news stories—expressly designed to sow discord and provoke emotional responses from readers, who unwittingly share the content across their own networks. By creating virtual armies of fake online profiles (or “bots”)—sometimes even stealing the identities of real people—they can drive the promotion of content by “liking” or “disliking” posts, masquerade as U.S. citizens to sign petitions, and amplify their own messages as they recruit followers. Now, as our awareness of these machinations grows, so does our uncertainty about the information we consume and the sources of this information, complicating already fraught notions of “news” and reliability. What does this mean for legal information professionals, and those we support?

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