Combating misinformation and conspiratorial narratives

During this outbreak and subsequent quarantine I think we are seeing more and more how easily false and misleading stories can spread throughout social media.

The marriage of powerful marketing tools and rich personal analytics allows this to happen with alarming efficiency.

I also believe that conspiracy theories are using gaps left by social and faith groups to give people a feeling of community and belonging which becomes the primary driver for individuals rather than the actual information to which the community ascribes itself.

How can we respond?

It seems like responding on an individual level is counter productive for a few reasons.

First of all the person feels attacked and shuts down. And furthermore it takes a tremendous amount of time to make counterclaims to all of their arguments.

We need a central repository for managing our responses.

People frequently share without validating. Skeptical, rational minded people which are naturally our allies in this battle would not have the time to research every narrative and put together a response.

Long term we would have to become trustworthy.

We can gain this trust by adopting and adhering to some universal standards.

  1. Authenticity- We are who we claim and our goals are not obscured. Our arguments are made in good faith.

  2. Fair- We apply the standards to all sources and reports evenly.

  3. Human- No bots allowed, but this also means we will make mistakes and are not ashamed to be corrected.

  4. Transparent- Our work and discussions are open. Our community can be joined by anyone that adopts and applies the standards to the information and data at hand.

Further than creating a tool, we are also building a community. There will continue to be nefarious and commercial forces which will attempt to pervert the public discourse. Eventually we could give rise to a force which can counterbalance those attempts.

Current attempts by social media companies could be viewed as a top down approach which is to identify postmortem an attack and attempt to build some tool which can identify those particular scenarios in the future. This seems too slow and futile. The enemy is dynamic and requires a fluid response.

We are cultivating a bottom up approach. We will start with the people first. The strategies and tools will be the cumulative work of our people and culture.

To Summarize the above, I think one strategy for combating misinformation is by creating a community of first responders which utilize a core set of values to quickly research and compile scientific and rational responses to specific misinformation attacks that are going viral.

In today’s crisis everyone can see the damage that a false narrative and false pretense can put on society. There are many that would benefit from a dissolution of coherent public discourse in our societies. We need to reclaim our public discourse from these forces.

We believe in open authentic dialog as a method to help bridge our differences and solve common problems.

Fake, false information and dishonest arguments are not helpful to anyone and only serve to sow doubt and distrust in the entire process.

I would consider this first post as a draft mission statement and that we can discuss below and continue to improve upon.

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