We recently launched Defeat Disinfo, the first organization to not only study or detect political disinformation online but also to mitigate its effect at scale — narratively, truthfully, and transparently. It is the first organized mass resistance to Trump’s disinformation by and for the American people, regardless of party.
“President Donald Trump is the largest amplifier of disinformation in the United States,” says Curtis Hougland, MS1 CEO and Director of the Defeat Disinfo PAC. “People are dying as a result of his political agenda. Trump’s expressions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate how a few words from the President result in real world damage, again and again. Defeat Disinfo will protect the American people by coordinating emotional, topical, visual, and personal narratives in response to the president’s disinformation through election day.”
According to a report released earlier this year by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, Russians interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump. Amid the continuous flow of disinformation from the Trump administration, and the acquiescence of large technology platforms such as Facebook to stop it, US intelligence services expect unprecedented disinformation in the 2020 election.
We launched Defeat Disinfo to serve as the front-line against the weaponization of the Internet for partisan political purposes by The White House. The PAC will support fair elections through three recurring steps:
- Map tweets from @realDonaldTrump becoming wide-spread disinformation on issues such as COVID-19
- Source the digital narratives proving most effective at pushing back against these untruths
- Invite Americans to share these highly visual and emotional narratives from real people in unison and at scale
Unlike Russians and the Republican Right, Defeat Disinfo will not use bots or sock puppets, falsify media, utilize models, or make up information. Instead, the organization will rely on real stories from real people.
At launch, Defeat Disinfo analyzed disinformation resulting from President Trump’s public comments on how bleach “treats” coronavirus.
As a result of his dangerous comments, and subsequent attacks on the media for disseminating his falsehoods, more than a thousand Facebook groups and hundreds of thousands of posts across the internet echoed his disinformation, resulting in spikes in calls to poison control centers across the country. In response, Defeat Disinfo algorithmically identified the prevailing themes and emotions most effectively mitigating this misinformation online. Based on previous analyses prior to launch, Trump’s comments on disinfectant represent the most damaging moment in his candidacy since the coronavirus outbreak began.
In preparing for launch, Defeat Disinfo also tracked disinformation resulting from Trump’s comments to provoke “reopen” protesters in regard to supposedly exaggerated death counts. In response, Defeat Disinfo determined that second-person accounts of the experiences of health care workers proved most effective as a counternarrative to these strains of disinformation.
While Defeat Disinfo plans to expand its purview beyond COVID-19, the organization will focus initially on the disinformation emerging from the White House related to the pandemic given the catastrophic cost to the health and wealth of all Americans. Defeat Disinfo will also post narratives in response to disinformation (and misinformation) daily on its blog given the continuous flow of lies from @realDonaldTrump.
Over time Defeat Disinfo will develop the largest repository of digital narratives countering Trump’s disinformation for use by any organization invested in protecting our democracy.