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Local professor, marketing expert weigh in on ease of misinformation online

ELKHART, Ind. --- A University of Notre Dame associate professor lectured a crowd at the Elkhart Public Library on Wednesday night about the ease of misinformation online. 

Professor Tim Weninger broke down his study on basically how one like share or retweet of a misleading online article can affect a nation. 

“That share, that like has our name associated with it,” said Weninger. “It affects the news and opinions your friends see.”

He said regular social media users are the ones who share the most fake news, not computers or otherwise known as ‘bots.’ One audience member asked if there is truly an impact. 

Reports of Kamala Harris, a 2020 democratic presidential candidate, said she told a radio show on February 11 she would listen to Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg while smoking weed back in college. The interview sparked a flurry of social media posts, articles and a segment on the view questioning Harris’ timeline. 

“She said she smoked listening to Tupac and Snoop Dogg,” said Megan McCain on The View. “She graduated from Howard University in 1986, Tupac’s debut album was in [19]91 and Snoop’s in 1993.”

Over the past few days, people online including the interviewers have said the tweets, articles, and segments are false. Zachary Nelson, with J2 Marketing in Mishawaka, said people use social media to process information and it is ‘faster,’ ‘crazier,’ and ‘more direct.’ 

He said social media’s influence was felt a lot during the 2016 Presidential Race.

“I think during that time period, you had voters educating themselves a lot more based on their internet, based on their phones, based on their experiences with digital online conversations,” said Nelson.

According to a national poll, 59 percent of likely U.S. voters said they use social media every day. Weninger said 75 percent of all retweets, likes, and shares are done without the user actually clicking on a link. 

Weninger said looking toward the 2020 Presidential election that media literacy is how fake news will be kept out of online conversations. Nelson said to help determine the real from the fake voters should fact check and do their own detailed research.

“Because we know of this now, we collectively will be less prone to fall for it the next time,” said Weninger.

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