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Internet Expert to Talk About "Toxic" Social Media and Politics

Sue Gardner is the former executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

What Americans think they know about politics could be coming from people just trying to make a profit.
That’s why the former executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Sue Gardner, will be speaking at the University of Mississippi’s Overby Auditorium in Farley Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, November 13.
Gardner will talk about the ways in which social media has changed the discourse of democracy. She will focus on the influence of hyperpartisan news sites, as well as the harassment and abuse targeting women and other minority groups online and off.
“We ended up with this public space that is kind of inflamed and toxic and overly excited, surfing this sort of wave of emotion that drives social media,” she said. “There are a whole lot of threads, and what they come together to create is this polarized, divided public that is hyperpartisan and can’t agree on anything, and that’s how we got Donald Trump.”
Gardner, who was named the 70th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine in 2012, currently assists in developing a strategic plan for The Tor Project, Inc., a non-profit organization that maintains free software for anonymous communication. Previously, Gardner served as director of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s website and online news channel, and later as the director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Robert Cummings, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the university, has worked with Gardner on the board of the Wiki Education Foundation for several years. He invited her on behalf of the university’s Digital Media Studies interdisciplinary minor and the Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies.
“She has in-depth experience managing a global community-based technology, i.e., Wikipedia, through the Wikimedia Foundation,” Cummings said. “Sue understands and has wrestled with many of the issues which define the role of technology in our culture.”
The Meek School of Journalism and New Media offers courses in the Digital Media Studies minor and is helping host the event. Cummings says Gardner should help students and the community gain insight and understanding from one of the top professionals in the industry.
“She has continued to work within Silicon Valley to advance the agenda of personal freedom on the internet and within tech communities. She has also advocated for gender rights within the tech community, which is no easy task.”
Gardner’s speech is free and open to the public.


Pepper Taylor is a journalism student at the University of Mississippi. Email her at pdtaylor@go.olemiss.edu.

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