Disinformation Memo

Disinformation Memo

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What Is Disinformation?

To: All 50 States & D.C.
From: Kentiya Orange, Legal Fellow, Advocacy & Litigation
Date: October 23, 2019
Subject: Census Disinformation Webinar Debrief


The Census Disinformation Webinar focused on three questions, the answers to which outline the steps organizations should take to combat disinformation.

What Is Disinformation?

Disinformation is not “misinformation.” Misinformation is information that is inaccurate͖ Disinformation is information that is deliberately false or misleading.

How Can I Cultivate Resilience to Disinformation?

1.   The League can fill “data voids” in search engines. Data voids exist when search engines do not
        have enough information on a certain topic. Bad actors use data voids to spread disinformation
        that discourages census participation. Data voids are filled when organizations put all their
        census content online, optimize their census content for search engines (e.g., using “census”
        and other keywords in titles), coordinate census messaging with partners, and share and repurpose census content from a centralized place.

2.   The League can also develop inoculation messaging as a part of its Education and Awareness
        efforts. Inoculation messaging primes communities for why disinformation would be spread,
        then shares the relevant accurate information. State and Local Leagues would tailor inoculation
        information to target problematic messaging to which their communities are particularly

How Can I Minimize the Impact of Disinformation?

 The League should evaluate the threat level (Low, Medium, or High) of the disinformation it seeks to minimize by asking (a) Has a problematic narrative jumped from one platform to another; (b) Has online engagement surpassed a certain number, e.g. four digits; and (c) Has the narrative reached one of your community’s key amplifiers (i.e., someone, an ally or opponent, whose voice amplifies information on an issue). The League could add this practice to their Watchdog activities.

1.   Low Threats are largely shared via private networks and have low engagement on social media.
        These narratives often warrant no response.

2.   Medium Threats may have relatively low social media engagement but may be reported on in
        one fear-mongering article. These narratives warrant a response directly to the community the
        disinformation has reached.

3.   High Threats have high social media engagement, including posts by key amplifiers, and have
        been reported on by several news organizations. These narratives warrant public responses to
        the country at large and via social and traditional media.

The webinar was moderated by Karen Narasaki from The Bauman Foundation. Emma Margolin of Data
& Society presented the bulk of the information in this memo. Suher Adi and Maya Berry of the Arab
American Institute presented a case study on combatting disinformation and provided resources for
protecting the Census (YallaCountMeIn and CensusCounts).