September 06, 2017

“Factual Democracy Project” Launches to Fight Back Against Efforts to Weaponize Fake News on Social Media

Conference call series brings together bring together technology, media, national security and civil society experts to explain Bots & Computational Propaganda, Disinformation and Persuasion, Russia and the Alt-Right and Combating Hate Online & Off, Conspiracy Theories & Right Wing Media

WASHINGTON — Melissa Ryan, an Obama 2012 veteran with more than a decade of digital campaign experience has launched the Factual Democracy Project. The new organization brings together experts that span tech, media, national security and civil society groups to explain how to fight back against efforts that use fake news — propaganda, disinformation and misinformation to disrupt our elections and our Democracy.

A spinoff of Ryan’s weekly 5,000 reader weekly newsletter, Ctrl Alt Right Delete, Factual Democracy Project was crowdfunded with more than $23,000 of seed funding from 256 donors. The launch comes as Russian bots are gearing up for 2018. Bloomberg reported recently, “Blamed for steering political debate last year, bots used for Russian propaganda and other causes are only becoming more emboldened,” noting that Sen. John McCain was targeted by a slew of bots after demanding that President Trump denounce white Supremacists in Charlottesville.

“Democracy as we know it is in danger but we can’t save it until we understand the problem fully.” said Factual Democracy Project Founder Melissa Ryan. “The more we know about what happens in the dark corners of the Internet, the more we understand about how Donald Trump taps into those forces, the better equipped we are to fight back. We all need a basic working knowledge of disinformation and how our social media feeds have been weaponized.

The first conference call, Bots & Computational Propaganda will focus on social media manipulation, helping to define just how much social media is being manipulated, offering insight into cutting edge research being done to tackle the problem, and explaining resources that are already available to combat bots and computational propaganda.

Panelists include:

  • Jonathon Morgan Founder & CEO of New Knowledge AI and Founder, Data for Democracy. Morgan is a co-creator of the Hamilton 68 dashboard, which allows anyone to easily see what Russian trolls and bots are amplifying on Twitter;
  • Lisa-Maria Neudert, Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute, whose Computational Propaganda report of bot/troll manipulation includes case studies from 9 different countries;
  • Renée DiResta, Author and Expert on Computational Propaganda; co-founder of Vaccinate California, where she became exposed to how pseudoscience conspiracy theories spread on social media. Her work on this subject has appeared in The Economist, Wired and Slate.
  • Shireen Mitchell, a veteran nonprofit leader who works at the intersection of tech, diversity and inclusion. Named one of Fast Company’s The Most Influential Women in Technology, she founded Digital Sisters/Sistas Inc., focused on women and girls of color in tech and online access.

The call series schedule below is open to credentialed members of the media. To RSVP or learn about new speakers as they are announced, email [email protected]

  • Tuesday, Sept 12: Bots & Computational Propaganda
  • Tuesday, Sept. 26: Conspiracy Theories & Right Wing Media
  • Tuesday, Oct. 10: European Elections Debrief
  • Tuesday, Oct. 24: Connecting the dots: Russia and the Alt-Right
  • Tuesday, Nov. 7: Combating Hate Online & Off
  • Tuesday, Nov. 21: What we know about Disinformation & Persuasion

About Melissa Ryan: Melissa Ryan is the Founder of Factual Democracy Project and the author of the Ctrl Alt Right Delete weekly newsletter. She’s spent a decade leading digital campaigns for nonprofits and political races, including EMILY’s List, Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the New Organizing Institute, and Senator Russ Feingold.

Ryan is an expert on the intersection of politics, media, and technology. She’s often called on by conference organizers and the press to speak on these topics. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @MelissaRyan.

Contact: [email protected]
Sept. 6, 2017