VC’s Research and Innovation seminar brings to the fore growing challenges with misinformation

by Kgaugelo Selane

20 September 2023

The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) hosted the 31st Vice Chancellor’s Prestigious Research and Innovation Seminar at the Prestige Auditorium - Pretoria Campus, on 6 September 2023. The seminar’s central focus was on the growing problem of social media misinformation.

Professor Paul Harrigan, Deputy Chair of Marketing at The University of Western Australia and guest speaker at the VC's Research and Innovation Seminar.

In his welcome remarks, Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal emphasised the University’s commitment in fostering a new generation of ethical leaders. 

“We are a university that makes knowledge work. To this end we constantly and continuously mobilise every resource at our disposal, to ensure that the graduates we produce are ethical in conduct, future proofed and future ready”, he said.

In his keynote address titled "Checking the Spread of Misinformation” Prof Paul Harrigan, an Associate Professor and Deputy Chair of Marketing at the University of Western Australia, presented a riveting analysis of the problem of online misinformation, partisan information, and the power of so-called influencers.

Prof Harrigan’s presentation served as a wake-up call, weighing in on the serious harm that misinformation can cause. He pointed out that the negative effects of misinformation go beyond simple lies, they foster polarization, breed societal division, and foster animosity.  

Furthermore, Prof Harrigan underlined that while social media platforms do facilitate the dissemination of misinformation, the real power behind this vicious cycle lies in the hands of the users. He dissected the dynamics of misinformation's dissemination, mentioning the critical role of negative emotions and partisan information in driving this phenomenon. He also examined the involvement of key stakeholders such as the media in countering the spread of false information.

Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Tshwane University of Technology.

Insightful and robust discussions by students, academics and researchers got underway following a thought-provoking keynote address by Prof Harrigan.

Prof Harriagan has authored books and more than 60 articles for international journals, making him a prominent figure in the industry. His commitment to tackling today's challenges is highlighted by his passion for teaching and his experience delivering digital marketing courses across the globe. Paul Harrigan's presentation at the Vice-Chancellor's Prestigious Research and Innovation Seminar was a thought-provoking exploration of the spread of misinformation and its far-reaching consequences. His expertise, coupled with his dedication to unravelling this complex issue, offers hope for a future where society can confront and mitigate the impact of misinformation on our collective well-being.

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