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Course in Media and Global Affairs Dives into Disinformation and Fake News

Nina Welding • DATE: February 23, 2018

The challenges of fake news and disinformation will be the focus of a special course offering during spring break.

Registration is open for the course, titled “Media and Global Affairs.” The course is being offered by the Keough School of Global Affairs in collaboration with the College of Engineering and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

The purpose of the three-day, one-credit course is to explore how media — including social media — works and how it is used for social good and manipulation and disinformation.

“There’s this coordinated effort among state actors to push specific narratives,” said Tim Weninger, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “This course will explore the social and technical processes that drive the spread of information and push certain narratives, whether by robots on Twitter, user-spam on Facebook or through vote manipulation on Reddit or YouTube.”

Weninger’s research focuses on network science, data science and machine learning. He developed the course with Kathy Corcoran, the Hewlett Fellow for Public Policy at the Kellogg Institute and a former bureau chief with the Associated Press. Corcoran will lead instruction for the course.

“This is the University’s first course offering in media disinformation, deception and fake news,” he said. Weninger will be among the guest lecturers. He hopes the response will lead to a full, three-credit-hour course in the future.

Corcoran and Weninger have assembled a number of guest lecturers from various academic, industry and media organizations who will address their experiences and work in the disinformation era.

In addition to class readings, students will select and analyze a case or issue they believe suffered from media misrepresentation or manipulation.

“We’re trying to find ways to mitigate these actions and to counter it,” said Weninger. “When it happens, what do we do in response? Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all trying to stop this from happening but have had limited success. The goal of this new course offering is to show how social media platforms can be used to weaponize information, and to design strategies to mitigate these effects in defense of the truth.”

Media & Global Affairs, MGA 60705, begins March 12. It is open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Students can register now up until the first day of class by contacting Michael Talbot, Associate Director, Master of Global Affairs, Keough School.

— Jessica Sieff, Office of Media Relations