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Media Forensics Hub awards seed grants to disinformation research projects


The Clemson University Media Forensics Hub has awarded more than $88,000 in seed grant funding to support researchers across the University who are working projects related to deception or inauthentic information online.

“We are grateful to the Knight Foundation for its support, which is helping us to award these grants to our colleagues across campus,” said Darren Linvill, co-director of the Media Forensics Hub. “As online communication continues to evolve, so must our research into online deception and inauthenticity. We are excited to see people from so many disciplines conducting this research, and we can’t wait to see the results of their work.”

Seven projects in a variety of disciplines received funding:

“The Deceiving Salesman Problem: Social Media Whistleblowers on Deceptive Personal Selling Practices and their Impact on Consumer Trust,” led by Sayan Gupta, assistant professor of marketing, and Ryan Mullins, the J. Daniel and Nancy Garrison Distinguished Professor of Sales Department Marketing.

This project will analyze social media influencers who post content related to exposing or educating consumers about deceptive sales practices and whether or not those posts have a positive or negative impact on consumer confidence. The study will focus specifically on posts by influencers in the automotive sales industry, looking at the authenticity of their posts as well as how consumers perceive the authenticity of those posts.

“Investigating the Impact of Viewing AI-generated Selfies on Body Dissatisfaction and Trust in Technology,” led by Brooke Bennett, assistant professor of psychology.

This study will look at how AI-generated images of content creators on Instagram impact body image of people viewing those images, as well as how viewing those posts affects users’ trust in technology.

“The Influence of Numeracy and Risk Literacy on Vulnerability to Online Deceptions,” led by Jinan Allan and Dawn Sarno, both assistant professors of psychology.

This project will explore the relationship between a person’s numeracy — their ability to understand and work with numbers — and risk literacy — their ability to evaluate and understand risk — to that person’s susceptibility to falling for phishing or other online scams.  

“Arguing in Bad Faith: Forms of Inauthenticity in Social and Political Discourse,” led by Thomas Maher, assistant professor of sociology and criminology, and Matthew Lapierre, associate professor of communication at the University of Arizona.

The project examines “bad faith arguments” — lies about subjective values, beliefs, emotions or opinions — and how people respond to them in comparison to objective lies about factual information, as well as how this particular type of inauthentic information is allowed to spread.

“The Use of Influence Operations on YouTube Around the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics,” led by Gregory Cranmer, associate professor of sport communication, and Brandon Boatwright, assistant professor of communication.

This research will look at disinformation campaigns related to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, specifically in the comments on YouTube videos, and these campaigns are used to bolster China’s international image during a major sporting event.

“(Dis)information about Contraceptive Methods on TikTok: Content, Spreaders, and Empowerment as a Strategy for Mitigating its Effects,” led by Erin Ash, associate professor of communication; CJ Calabrese, assistant professor of communication and faculty scholar for the School of Health Research; and Ashley Hedrick McKenzie, assistant professor of health communication.

This study will look at misinformation on TikTok about contraception, the motivations of the influencers who are sharing that misinformation, and the effective of strategies to address that misinformation.

“Win, Lose, or Disinform?” led by Morgan Wack, assistant research professor with the Media Forensics Hub; Ayse Lokmanoglu, assistant professor of communication; and Amira Jadoon, assistant professor of political science.

This research will look at false narratives and disinformation campaigns related to elections and how they influence people’s political preferences, perceptions and behaviors. The study will examine differences across countries and media environments, focusing on South African, Tunisia and Mozambique.

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