October 13, 2017

What We’ve Been Up To

Factual Democracy Project is just a couple of months old, but we’ve accomplished a lot in a short period. Below are a few updates. -Melissa

Saving Democracy, One Conference Call at a Time

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through our inaugural call series. We’ve had three successful calls so far with more than 300 dial-ins. Participants have heard from a wide array of voices in media, tech, national security, and civil society. Our first call was quoted in the New York Times.

I’m often asked why conference calls? It’s a fair question. As I’ve been studying social media weaponization and related problems I’ve found that multiple conversations are happening across the globe in four distinct sectors: tech, media, civil society, and national security. My goal was to curate conversations across sectors, bringing people together who might otherwise never interact. Conference calls are the easiest way to make those conversations happen, but the most accessible for listeners. You can listen at your desk or couch, and if you’re a member, you can listen at your leisure.

We have three calls left in the series. Next up on October 24, Connecting the Dots: Russia and the Alt-Right will explore the so-called alt-right as a global movement, specifically how Russia and Putinism interact with the alt-right coalition. On November 07 we’re partnering with the American Federation of Teachers for Combating Hate Online & Off, which will cover what we’re up against and some of the innovative anti-hate work being done. We’re partnering with Fenton for our final call on November 21The Persuasive Effects of Disinformation a discussion of the effects of computational propaganda and how we might begin to counter it.

Here’s a link to register for one or more of the final three calls. 

Real Polling about Facebook and Fake News

Factual Democracy Project recently released our first poll via Public Policy Polling. It shows that Americans remain surprisingly aware — and strongly disapprove — of how the platform enabled Russians to use paid media and fake news to influence American voters in the most recent election.

We learned two important things from this poll. First, there’s broad bipartisan agreement that Russia shouldn’t be allowed to buy political ads targeted at American voters. There’s also bipartisan agreement that Facebook should hold itself to the same standard as a media company and not allow fake news to be published and shared on their platform. Facebook is one of the world’s most profitable companies. The public understands that and expects it to protect our democracy by fighting back against disinformation campaigns that target American voters.

Key Findings

  • While Mark Zuckerberg said in a post yesterday that Facebook should be “a platform for all ideas,” Americans don’t agree and don’t think that Facebook should be given any kind of special pass. More than 70 percent believe that Facebook has the same obligation as a more traditional news company to not share “fake news” during elections.
  • Even in today’s polarized political environment, voters are united that Facebook should prevent “fake news.” 70 percent of Trump voters and 78 percent of Clinton voters alike said Facebook should not be used as a platform to spread “fake news.”
  • 56 percent of registered voters have seen or read news reports that Facebook allowed Russia to target voters with paid media. And 58 percent say that the recent news involving Russia has given them a less favorable impression of Facebook, which captures one of every five U.S. digital ad dollars.
  • Facebook is not very popular and the floor is lower still. Facebook had a 37 to 36 percent favorability rating. Among Trump voters, favorability stood at 29-49. Among Clinton voters favorability was nearly the reverse: 44-28. The risk for the company is further fallout among Clinton voters ahead of Congressional testimony in November.

The poll of 865 registered voters was conducted Sept. 22-25 by Public Policy Polling. The margin of error is 3.3 percent.

Read more about the poll at McClatchy.

On the Road Again

What do Milwaukee, DC, and London have in common? You can hear me speak/meet me in each city this month!

Washington DC: October 18 6:30 PM: Hacks/Hackers Meetup: Fighting Fake News. I’m speaking on this panel with Philip Bump from the Washington Post and Josh Strupp of ISL. “Our next Hacks/Hackers meetup will focus on technological and editorial efforts to track and combat the rising tide of fake news stories circulating on the web.”

Milwaukee WI: October 21 9:30 AM: American Constitution Society, National Lawyer Convening. Engaging the Media to Advance the Goals of ACS (and Your Career). Must be registered for the conference to attend.

London: I’ll be facilitating a session at MozFest (October 27-29) on Disinformation and Elections with Sam Jeffers, co-founder of Who Targets Me. I’ll also be attending MisinfoCon Europe on October 25.

Work Together?

I’m available for trainings, research, and strategic consulting. Need to get your organization up to speed on social media weaponization, or radicalization? Want help crafting a strategic plan? Let’s talk. Just reply to this email.

Factual Democracy Project is pioneering a multi-disciplinary response to the extreme right coalition and the weaponization of the Internet. To learn more, visit our website at http://factualdemocracy.com