NDI to Honor Organizations at the Forefront of the Battle to Combat Disinformation

Monday, October 30, 2017

Awardees Include Oxford Internet Institute’s Project on Computational Propaganda (United Kingdom), StopFake.org  (Ukraine), Rappler (Philippines)

Washington, D.C. -- While press coverage on disinformation has focused on Russian interference in the U.S. elections, the problem of disinformation is global in scale. Disinformation poisons democratic discourse, often making it difficult for citizens to distinguish between truth and fiction, or between genuine and manufactured social media conversations.

At its annual Democracy Dinner on Thursday, November 2, the National Democratic Institute (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.

The 2017 Democracy Awards will be given to Oxford Internet Institute’s Project on Computational Propaganda (@polbots), StopFake.org in Ukraine (@StopFakingNews), and Rappler in the Philippines (@rapplerdotcom).

All three awardees have demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to democracy and human rights:

  • The Oxford Internet Institute  - The Oxford Internet Institute (OII), a research and 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 developing these cases studies, a team of 12 Oxford researchers interviewed 65 experts, and analyzed tens of millions of 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 OII, is the Principal Investigator for the Computational Propaganda Project and is statutory Professor of Internet Studies at OII, as well as a Professorial Fellow at Balliol College at the University of Oxford.

  • StopFake.org - StopFake.org in Ukraine is a dedicated fact-checking website run by a group of Ukrainian journalists determined to fight the rising tide of propaganda originating from Russian sources. The purpose of the StopFake.org community is to check and verify facts and refute distorted information and propaganda about events in Ukraine. Since 2014, StopFake.org has been on the front lines exposing disinformation. In addition to exposing disinformation, StopFake.org works to provide a truthful counter-narrative that engages public audiences proactively and seeks to “inoculate” them from future disinformation efforts. 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, whose stories seek to inspire civic engagement. Rappler comes from the root words "rap" (to discuss) and "ripple" (to make waves). Rappler has been at the forefront of investigative reporting in the Philippines on the use of “trolls” (individuals compensated to spread disinformation) and social media “bots” (computer code), which are used to distort the truth and disseminate false news. Because of its pioneering reporting in this area, it has itself become a target of disinformation efforts.  Rappler’s story shows how disinformation and computational propaganda can be used by domestic political actors in new democracies to undermine democratic discourse. Maria A. Ressa, who is accepting the award on behalf of Rappler, is its CEO and Executive Editor. She is also a former CNN bureau chief and investigative reporter.

Recipients of the award have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; the eight political party leaders who negotiated and signed the Northern Ireland peace agreement; Varela Project leader Oswaldo Payá of Cuba; Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi; Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel; Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai; East Timor President Xanana Gusmão; Chile’s 1988 Free Election Movement; Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; Philippine President Corazon Aquino; U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter; former Vice President Walter Mondale; First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton; Senators Barbara Mikulski, Joseph Biden, Richard Lugar, George Mitchell, Edward Kennedy and Paul Kirk; Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke and Charles Manatt; Rep. Geraldine Ferraro; Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves; AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Lane Kirkland; Saint Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak; South Korean President Kim Young-sam; Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania; Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek; Northern Ireland political leader John Hume; civic innovators dedicated to open government; Ukrainian democratic activists, Hanna Hopko, Serhiy Leshchenko, and Oleksandr Solontay; Tunisian leaders Yassine Brahim, Rafik Halouani, Wafa Makhlouf, and Sayida Ounissi; UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and UN Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright.

The program for the dinner will begin at 7 pm EST and will be livestreamed at https://www.ndi.org/2017-democracy-award-dinner. Join the conversation via #disinfoVdem.


NDI  is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.



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