Jennifer Stromer-GalleyAs the November 2024 election draws closer, Syracuse University Professor Jennifer Stromer-Galley is reminding voters to be on the watch for misinformation about politicians, government, and the elections on social media. 

Stromer-Galley, who also serves as senior associate dean for academic and faculty affairs at Syracuse’s School of Information Studies, is a nationally recognized expert in political campaigns and misinformation. She has dedicated her career to studying the impacts of digital technology and social media in today’s political world. 

She was recently a guest on the iSchool’s “Infoversity” podcast to discuss the rise of social media, its impact on elections, the prevalence of misinformation and how artificial intelligence is poised to disrupt campaigning in 2024. 

“There’s a lot of concern about the potential for misinformation this election season. It is a genuine concern,” Stromer-Galley said. “Because of the proliferation of so many different social media platforms, it’s really hard to monitor and track, especially because the tech companies do not make it easy for researchers or civil society. The messaging comes from many different sources, including politicians themselves who are pushing this information. It’s a mess, honestly.”

Generative AI allows people to easily and quickly create deep fake videos, which show politicians, journalists or other people saying and advocating for things that they never actually said. The digitally created avatars and messages are puppeteered by people, some of whom have bad intentions. 

“It’s important for the public to be savvy about detecting lies,” Stromer-Galley said. “When something doesn’t look right or feel right, really question it.”

Hear Jenny discuss social media and misinformation in today’s political world

A new research grant will help Stromer-Galley lead a team of researchers across the university and work with Syracuse University’s Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship (IDJC) to illuminate hidden trends and actors spreading and influencing inaccurate information targeting U.S. voters through social media.

The IDJC was awarded the $250,000 research grant from Neo4j and use of the company’s graph database technology as part of an initiative to identify misinformation trends in the U.S. presidential election and other top 2024 contests. 

The research team will focus on dissecting misinformation themes, pinpointing origins of messages and tracing misinformation by collecting and algorithmically classifying ads run on Facebook and Instagram, as well as social media posts on Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter. The project will also gather input from journalists and the public about the 2024 presidential election and races for the U.S. Senate and key congressional districts. 

“In the information study space, we have a unique set of skills and talents that really allow us to help the public and politicians and to make a difference,” Stromer-Galley said. “We can help us think about how to build information technology for good in the public sphere.”