On The Daily: Former Obama Social Media Manager to teach University students about social media responsibility

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 7:51pm

The University of Michigan is creating a new Center for Social Media Responsibility, which will be housed within the School of Information, aiming to explore the meaning and threats behind social media.

The University of Michigan is creating a new Center for Social Media Responsibility, which will be housed within the School of Information, aiming to explore the meaning and threats behind social media. Buy this photo
Max Kuang/Daily

Amid an immigration crisis, gun control debate and delicate foreign relations landscape, it would seem as though President Donald Trump would not have a lot of time to tweet.

However, early Tuesday morning Trump defied odds again, firing up his Twitter account before dawn. The tweet was 122 characters mocking an issue one wouldn’t expect to be at the top of any presidential agenda: The TV ratings of the Oscars.

To respond to the growing presence of social media, even among national leaders, the University of Michigan is creating a new Center for Social Media Responsibility, which will be housed within the School of Information, aiming to explore the meaning and threats behind social media, a channel Trump has utilized as the centerpiece of his communication strategy.

Information School Dean Thomas Finholt was inspired by this growing dialogue surrounding social media and made the establishment of the center a priority when he assumed the position in 2016.

According to Finholt, the technological revolution has been trailed by the question of the global impact of mass public communication.

“From the earliest days of the internet, technologists envisioned the benefits of broader access to the means of public communication: social mobility, resistance to despotism, universal authorship and open source software,” Finholt said in a University press release.

The center will be headed by one of former President Barack Obama’s social media managers, Garlin Gilchrist II. Gilchrist is a Detroit native who graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in computer science and computer engineering. His career both in the White House and most recently working for the City of Detroit highlights his passion for working at the intersection of technology and politics.   

“Our job is to create tools, and to use and make our research usable to media makers, media consumers to platform companies, to make sure we deal with this ongoing threat of more difficult-to-understand and potential misinformation,” Gilchrist said.

The center will be funded with the internal resources of the Information School in addition to financial support from the Office of the Provost.