7 Takes on the Disinformation Pandemic
Disinformation is a powerful weapon, we’re now seeing the widespread results of that. We collected seven personal takes on disinformation from our members and staff, as well as the movement leaders and experts who will be speaking at the upcoming series we’re hosting on the topic. They share their own experience with disinformation, dive into the many ways it can affect our society, and what they believe we can do about it.
“I was born and raised in Stockton, CA, a beautiful, yet complicated city scarred by decades of high poverty and racial, educational, and employment disparities. These disparities and a lack of investment in the city’s people present the perfect breeding ground for disinformation. The city lacks a reliable local newspaper, and an online publication seized upon the opportunity to provide “news” to Stocktonians. One of the website’s primary targets was Mayor Michael Tubbs. They attacked his reelection campaign through the widespread dissemination of misinformation and disinformation and he lost his bid for reelection. Seeing family and friends spread the site’s articles and posts is disappointing, and it’s often because they don’t realize the information is false. Sometimes all it takes is one conversation to stop the spread of misinformation.” – Summer Migliori Soto, Programs & Initiatives Manager at WDN
“There is a great risk of not seeing some of the laws that are being passed as deeply connected. We have disinformation being codified into law, that will make it harder for POC and first-time voters to vote. It’s not about a piecemeal anti-trans bill in this state or voting rights bill in another state, it’s a coordinated network of larger attacks on our democracy fueled by disinformation.” – Bridget Todd, Communications Director at UltraViolet, on her podcast There Are No Girls on the Internet
“When leaders make decisions based on disinformation, we all suffer. Countless people have died due to disinformation that serves those in powerful positions at the expense of the rest of us. Social media and the chronic lack of investment in deep, investigative journalism have compounded this challenge. With wildfires and floods simultaneously escalating our climate crisis, the sense of urgency is increasing.“ – WDN member
“One of the greatest problems we see is that a majority of Americans read what their small circles post online as their main source of news. The problem with this is that most people are not fact-checking each other; they are merely interpreting that information as true. We also know that misinformation profits greatly on social media platforms because misleading information drives engagement.” – Nora Benavidez, Senior Counsel and Director of Digital Justice & Civil Rights for Free Press in a conversation with PEN America.
“I am deeply troubled by the negative impact disinformation is having on our democracy. I recently read Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article on the dark money behind disinformation. The people supporting the effort are smart, strategic and effective. She points out we not only need to counteract voter suppression but the more sinister and terrifying move to subvert the voting process which could result in election results being overturned.” – WDN member
“Racist and misogynist disinformation must be countered as it impacts many aspects of our lives, from who is eligible to vote to who chooses to get vaccinated. I am proud to say that UltraViolet, an organization that WDN helped venture fund, plays a key role in addressing this issue.” – WDN member
“It’s critical we resource BIPOC-led efforts to hold media platforms accountable, educate impacted communities, and address the alarming level of disinformation.“ – Kathryn Snyder, Director of Programs & Initiatives at WDN