NDI’s annual Democracy Dinner will be held November 2nd at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, DC. This year, NDI will honor three organizations on the front lines of fighting the global challenge of disinformation and false news. In addition, Senator Chris Murphy will provide a perspective from the U.S. Congress on this important topic and efforts that are being taken to counter disinformation. To purchase tickets and sponsor the event, please use this link.
Disinformation in politics - particularly elections - represents a critical threat to the US, to our allies and to democracy itself. The global reach of social media platforms, coupled with the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, has provided a powerful suite of new tools that are increasingly used by autocratic regimes seeking to control the information space. While control of information has long been a key feature of autocracies at home, the rise of social media platforms and online political discourse now provide new opportunities for autocracies to manipulate public opinion abroad and disrupt domestic politics in geopolitical adversaries. The weaponization of social media is a global challenge, both during and between elections. Emerging democracies have often been used to “weapons test” new approaches to computational propaganda and disinformation, and the work being done to counter it is critical to the future of democracy.
At the dinner, NDI will recognize three organizations that have demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to democracy and human rights:
- StopFake.org - StopFake.org in Ukraine works with journalists and citizen groups to monitor and uncover false news sources, and has created tools on “how to identify a fake” on its website. It checks facts and verifies information in media to help consumers obtain objective news that is free from distorted information, specifically on events in Ukraine. Long before most were aware of the use of false media to manipulate public opinion, StopFake was on the front lines exposing these tactics in a very tough neighborhood in which Ukraine is facing lots of outside pressure. One of the challenges of “fact checking” approaches to disinformation is that in correcting the record, after the fact, it is difficult to displace opinions or ideas that have already been formed or reinforced by disinformation. In addition to exposing disinformation, StopFake.org works to provide a truthful counter-narrative that engages public audiences proactively and seeks to “inoculate” from disinformation. Margo Gontar, who is accepting the award on behalf of the organization, is a co-founder of StopFake and a TV host of the weekly news digest “StopFake News”.
- Rappler - Rappler is an online social news network based in the Philippines. It holds public and private sectors accountable, pursuing truth and transparency for the people served. It encourages its readership to be aware of the spread of disinformation and propaganda, and exposes the hidden social media "machines" or bots that distort the truth. Rappler has suffered threats and severe internal pressure for its pioneering work in exposing disinformation and propaganda in the Philippines to manipulate public opinion. The story of Rappler shows how the use of disinformation and computational propaganda are bleeding over to domestic actors in new and consolidated democracies, resulting in democratic backsliding. Attacks on Rappler’s founder also demonstrate the particularly vicious ways in which disinformation has been used to attack women who are active in political life. Maria A. Ressa, who is accepting the award on behalf of the outlet, is the CEO and Executive Editor of Rappler, and is a former CNN bureau chief and investigative reporter.
- The Oxford Internet Institute’s Project on Computational Propaganda - The Oxford Internet Institute (OII), a multi-disciplinary research teaching department of the University of Oxford, has been at the forefront of research in the field of disinformation. In early 2017, OII’s Project on Computational Propaganda issued a groundbreaking study on the use of social media and computational propaganda to manipulate public opinion in nine countries. In preparing these cases studies, a team of 12 Oxford researchers interviewed 65 experts, and analyzed tens of millions of media posts on seven different social media platforms during scores of elections, political crises, and national security incidents. Dr. Philip N. Howard, who is accepting the award on behalf of the Institute, is the Principal Investigator for the Computational Propaganda Project, and is a statutory Professor of Internet Studies at OII, as well as a Professorial Fellow at Balliol College at the University of Oxford. The launch of these case studies in Washington DC, was held at NDI’s offices in June, as part of #DisinfoWeek, a series of events to share information on this issue. The #DisinfoWeek hashtag reached over 7 million unique users. NDI also filmed 7 Facebook Live interviews on the sidelines of the Digital Disinformation Forum held in partnership with Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. The videos were viewed over 7,000 times that week for a total of 2,800 minutes viewed.
The dinner will include remarks from Senator Chris Murphy, a leader in the U.S. Congress on efforts to counter global disinformation and propaganda, especially efforts by Russia. Please join us November 2nd to learn more and to recognize global leaders in the fight against disinformation. For more information, please contact Kirsten Tallon ([email protected] or 202.728.5483).