December 18, 2017

Stommel Provides Expertise for Inside Higher Ed

Jesse Stommel, executive director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, was among a panel of digital experts who provided perspective for an Inside Higher Ed article about digital learning development. To read the article, go to “Predicting 2017’s Legacy.”

Shaffer Talks with Bloomberg News about Fake Accounts

Instructional technology specialist Kris Shaffer recently commented in an article for Bloomberg Technology.  The article, “How the Kremlin Tried to Pose as American News Sites on Twitter,” detailed how a Kremlin-backed Russian Internet Research Agency operated dozens of Twitter accounts masquerading as local American news sources that garnered more than half-a-million followers.

According to the article, the majority of the imposter news accounts were created more than a year before the 2016 U.S. elections. Shaffer, who is conducting research for UMW and Data for Democracy, told Bloomberg that the history of tweets and engagement with real users improves the placement of the account and its posts in Twitter’s search results. That means that if the account does push major disinformation campaigns, it is less likely to be blocked.

“Shaffer’s analysis of the accounts found that several of the imposter news accounts also tweeted during the French presidential election,” according to the article. “He surfaced about 41 Tweets from accounts including @WorldNewsPoli, @TodayMiami, @DetroitDailyNew, and @ChicagoDailyNew. Most of the posts were retweets of local news articles, but more than a quarter of them included stories from truthfeed.com, a known disinformation site, according to Shaffer. Those stories were mostly attacking Emmanuel Macron, who won the election, and biased toward Marine Le Pen, a far-right politician in France.”

Shaffer Comments in Inside Higher Ed Article

Kris Shaffer, an instructional technology specialist at the University of Mary Washington, was recently quoted in Inside Higher Ed. In the article “Net Neutrality Rollback Concerns Colleges,” Shaffer said that many students working from home already have slow internet, making it difficult for them to access course materials. “If ISPs start charging customers more for content such as video, this issue may get worse,” he said.

At Mary Washington, said Shaffer, many students take part in an institutionwide initiative called Domain of One’s Own, in which they are encouraged to create their own websites and share the content with friends. He said that the university works with small companies to provide this service to students — companies that, he worries, wouldn’t have the cash to buy prioritization from ISPs, potentially making the websites less accessible to the public.

“The internet was invented for universities. If educational content is now going to take a back seat … it’s disheartening, to say the least,” said Shaffer.