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Digital Disinformation and the Threat to Democracy: Information Integrity in the 2020 Elections

ice sculpture of the word "truth"

A Symposium co-organized by:
PEN America
Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center
Ellen L. Weintraub, Chair, U.S. Federal Election Commission

PEN America, the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, and the Chair of the U.S. Federal Election Commission, Ellen L. Weintraub, convened a half-day symposium to examine the urgent challenge that digital disinformation poses to our democracy—and specifically to the 2020 elections—and to identify concrete measures that ought to be taken. As technological manipulation of information advances and disinformation becomes an increasingly common tactic in some campaign playbooks, the prospect that public trust in our democratic processes will further disintegrate looms large. 

Confirmed participants include:

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), vice-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and a leader of bipartisan efforts to protect U.S. elections from Russian and other malign foreign interference.

Hon. Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security in the George W. Bush Administration (2005-2009), and Executive Chairman of the Chertoff Group.

Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), a leader of bipartisan efforts in Congress to address the problem of “deep fakes” and to enhance transparency in efforts to unmask foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America.

Eileen Donahoe, Executive Director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center.

Ginny Badanes, Director of Strategic Projects for Microsoft’s Defending Democracy program.

Lisa Fazio, Assistant Professor in Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University, where she teaches and conducts research on how people learn new information, both true and false, and how to correct errors in people’s knowledge, as well as how to mitigate the effects of reading false information.

Camille Francois, Chief Innovation Officer at Graphika, where she works to detect and mitigate disinformation and media manipulation.

Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Public Policy Lead for Global Elections.

Kevin Kane, Public Policy Manager at Twitter.

Susan Ness, Annenberg Public Policy Center and leader of the Transatlantic High Level Working Group on Content Moderation Online and Freedom of Expression.

Nathan Miller, Legal Director at Avaaz, which during the Spring 2019 campaigns for the European Parliament mobilized a network of researchers, investigative reporters and data analysts to monitor social media, identifying networks driving fraudulent news and pushing tech platforms to limit the damage being done.

Aimee Rinehart, Director of Development and Partnerships at First Draft, an organization working in Europe and the U.S. to support journalists, academics and technologists working to enhance trust and truth in the digital age.

Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN/New Policy Institute, during the 2018 campaign cycle he directed the countering disinformation initiative at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Laura Rosenberger, Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan transatlantic national security advocacy group formed in July 2017 to counter efforts by Russia to undermine democratic institutions in the United States and Europe.

Kara Swisher, contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and editor-at-large for the technology news website Recode and producer of the Recode Decode podcast and Code Conference.

Clement Wolf, Google’s Global Public Policy Lead for Information Integrity.

In addition, senior officials from major tech companies and social media platforms, scholars, researchers, journalists, and representatives of Republican and Democratic campaign committees were invited for an in-depth and solutions-oriented discussion on fighting disinformation in the 2020 elections. 


  • Develop and mobilize will to address these critical challenges and facilitate information sharing and coordination among key players critical moments in the 2020 election cycle
  • Identify concrete actions needed to strengthen defenses and mobilize key players
  • Address gaps in technical and policy understanding on emerging and urgent disinformation threats and responses, to better equip participants to address disinformation while preserving free expression and open discourse online

(in the main FEC Hearing Room)

8:00am—Doors open

8:30 – 9:00am—Coffee & registration

9:00 – 9:10am—Introduction: Framing the challenge

9:10 – 9:45am—Keynote: Senator Mark Warner of Virginia

9:45 – 11:00am—Session 1: [featuring former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff]  Understanding the global challenge: How disinformation and new technologies can change the way people think, and what we can do about it

11:00am – 12:45pm—Session 2: [featuring Rep. Stephanie Murphy] Facing the challenge in the U.S.:  Solutions in the fight to save the 2020 elections

12:45 – 1:00pm—Closing and next steps

Security procedures
All visitors to FEC must check in with the FEC security officer, located in the building lobby, and present a valid government-issued photo ID (e.g., driver’s license or passport) in order to be admitted to the building. Visitors will then be escorted to the 9th floor for security screening.

All visitors will be required to walk through the metal detector and their belongings must be screened through the x-ray machine. To expedite the screening process, you are encouraged to limit the number of items you bring with you. Please be prepared to remove any metal objects (e.g., belts, watches, etc.) before your security screening. Once security screening is complete, you will be escorted to your meeting location.

During events with anticipated large attendance, visitors should arrive 30-45 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting time to clear the security process. The event will be livestreamed at https://fec.gov/disinformation.

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