Bucknell March Tip Sheet

LEWISBURG, Pa. — The following may be Bucknell University story ideas in March.

WEAPONIZING PERSONAL DATA — U.S. intelligence is clear — the Russians, and possibly others, are once again meddling in the 2020 presidential election. And Bucknell information systems professor Eric Santanen says as long as Americans continue to freely share their personal data through social media, outside influences will continue to use it against us in our election’s outcome. He calls the data mining influence campaign “the holy grail of political weaponry.” “We now have this incredibly precise weapon that can simply be aimed at a different target [than 2016],” says Santanen, author of a future journal article entitled Weaponizing Personal Data to Undermine Democracy. “It can be used to essentially brainwash people and manipulate them – and nobody really seems to notice.” Santanen has analyzed how outside influences weaponize personal data, including the scheme used by the now defunct firm Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 presidential election. It starts by getting users to engage in playful social media quizzes for future targeted misinformation about political candidates — the true “fake news.” But in today’s highly politicized digital world, Santanen says the truth may not matter anymore because nobody bothers fact-checking. “It doesn’t even need to be true. That doesn’t matter,” he says. “What matters is that it can be made to be pervasive and made to be manipulative.” CONTACT: Santanen, 570-577-3652, esantane@bucknell.edu

A MEMORIAL MARCH — Ten Bucknell students will participate in the prestigious Army 26-mile Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico March 15. The event honors the American and Filipino soldiers who served in the Philippines during World War II. In 1942, over 60,000 soldiers were imprisoned by the Japanese and forced to march over 60 miles. Their journey has been memorialized every year in New Mexico since its conception in 1989. The Bucknell students raised over $8,000 in order to pay for the trip and the right to march in the high desert with their backpacks filled with 35 pounds of equipment, including canned goods that will be donated at the end of the march to food pantries. “We’re not used to doing those kinds of hills here, and the heat is going to be a big kicker,” says Ben Wilken ’21. Several surviving Bataan prisoners await at the finish line to congratulate the competitors at the White Sands Missile Range. “Roughly 8,000 participants came out last year, so I’m really excited to be a part of it this year,” says Bucknell team captain Jeremy Dericks ‘21. CONTACTS: Dericks, 973-600-5663, jeremy.dericks@bucknell.edu; Wilken, 570-470-4323, ben.wilken@bucknell.edu

MORE FOR MENTAL HEALTH — According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), the suicide rate among young adults ages 15-24 has tripled since the 1950s, and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students. Bucknell has prioritized the accessibility of mental health resources for its students, becoming the first university to receive designation as a Certified Suicide Prevention Institution of Higher Education by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. As part of that designation, Bucknell developed and implemented a plan to advise students and staff on mental health and suicide prevention resources available on and off campus. Students themselves have added to the mental health assistance on campus with the creation of the University’s first mental health collegiate club, which grew out of a class project in Professor Neil Boyd’s Management 101 class in the Freeman College of Management. CONTACTS: Kelly Kettlewell, Counseling and Student Development Center, 570-577-1604, kelly.kettlewell@bucknell.edu; Boyd, 570-577-1821, neil.boyd@bucknell.edu

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CONTACT: Mike Ferlazzo, 570-577-3212, 570-238-6266 (c), mike.ferlazzo@bucknell.edu

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