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Disinformation

WHAT WE’RE DOING ABOUT DISINFORMATION IN 2024

It’s an election year, and disinformation is in the news once again. 

The year started off with influence campaigns focused on both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries – including robocalls featuring an AI-generated “audio deepfake” simulating President Biden’s voice. The goals were familiar: to smear an opponent for political gain, damage trust in our election system, and suppress voter participation. Disinformation campaigns like these are nothing new, but new tools have made it easier than ever to produce and distribute deceptive content.

Unfortunately, these escalating threats to our democracy come at a time when social media platforms have scaled back their content moderation programs, and aggressive legal and legislative pressure from politicians has put a chill on counter-disinformation research and coordination

This moment calls for innovative approaches to tackling false information, and PEN America is ready to support journalistspolicy makers, and communities across the country. We’re excited to share our plans for the Disinformation and Community Engagement program and invite you to get involved. 

LEARN MORE

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We believe that an empowered public and vibrant news ecosystem are the best means of countering disinformation’s pernicious effects. As newsrooms navigate the challenges presented by disinformation, PEN America has developed resources to help journalists detect, monitor, and report on disinformation and build greater trust with their communities. Check out Facts Forward: A Journalist’s Guide to Combating Disinformation.

Reports

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Hard News: Journalists and the Threat of Disinformation

PEN America’s nationwide survey of more than 1,000 reporters and editors on how disinformation is disrupting the practice of journalism.

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The Impact of Community-Based Digital Literacy Interventions on Disinformation Resilience

These findings highlight the importance of trust-building within communities of color, working with and through community and faith leaders, and supporting community and ethnic media in bolstering disinformation resilience.

Faking News

Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth

Faking News rates the range of fact-checking, algorithmic, educational, and standards-based approaches being taken to counter the proliferation of fake news.

Truth On The Ballot

Truth on the Ballot: Fraudulent News, the Midterm Elections, and Prospects for 2020

Micro-targeting capabilities have weaponized disinformation, so that what might once have passed muster as simply a hard-edged campaign message in the public arena can now move with stealthy, laser-like efficiency to reach sub-segments of voters while remaining invisible to the wider public or opposing campaigns.

Losing the News: The Decimation of Local News and the Search for Solutions

Losing the News: The Decimation of Local News and the Search for Solutions

Confronted with the scope and stakes of the problem, Losing the News ultimately calls for a radical rethinking of local journalism as a public good.

PEN America Resources

Trusted Messengers: How Community Engagement Journalism is Uniquely Positioned to Slow the Spread of Mis/Disinformation

Trusted Messengers: How Community Engagement Journalism is Uniquely Positioned to Slow the Spread of Mis/Disinformation

Tips for journalists and journalism-adjacent professionals who are committed to fighting mis/disinformation through community engagement practices.
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Communicating During Contentious Times: Dos and Don’ts to Rise Above the Noise

Communicating During Contentious Times: Dos and Don’ts to Rise Above the Noise

A new guide for community leaders to use in their pursuit of credible and peace-forward messaging strategies.
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Community Disinformation Action Hub

Community Disinformation Action Hub

The Community Disinformation Action Hub is for community leaders and anyone who wants to learn what disinformation is and take action in their community to stop it.
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Media Literacy Toolkit

Media Literacy Toolkit

Drawn from the curriculum of PEN America’s “Knowing the News” project, here are five quick tips for defending against disinformation.
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How to Talk to Friends and Family Who Share Misinformation

How to Talk to Friends and Family Who Share Misinformation

Your friends and family may spread misinformation, and it can be tough to know how to confront them. Here are a few suggestions.
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PEN America’s Guide for Combating Protest Disinformation

PEN America’s Guide for Combating Protest Disinformation

False, misleading, and misattributed stories and images can polarize communities, unfairly damage reputations, and obscure the truth.
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PEN America’s Guide on COVID-19 and Disinformation

PEN America’s Guide on COVID-19 and Disinformation

If you’re looking to find factual information about public health, check first with trusted institutions, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.
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How to Prevent the Spread of Disinformation About Russia’s War on Ukraine: A Tip Sheet

How to Prevent the Spread of Disinformation About Russia’s War on Ukraine: A Tip Sheet

How can students mobilize and respond to book bans? This guide will help you fight back against book bans and build a stronger community of readers and advocates in the process.
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Five Ways Political Campaigns Can Combat Online Disinformation in 2020

Five Ways Political Campaigns Can Combat Online Disinformation in 2020

Certain segments of the population are microtargeted with false or manipulated content; fake social media accounts bombard feeds with fake information that has the potential to confuse and mislead voters; and some political ads contain demonstrably false content.
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The Reporters Guide to Covering the 2020 Election

The Reporters Guide to Covering the 2020 Election

This Reporters Guide is intended to be a shortform distillation of the most critical reporting elements for those covering the 2020 U.S. election.
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Commentary

PEN America’s Guide to Avoiding Disinformation Regarding the Ongoing Crisis in Israel and Gaza

October 18, 2023
The following guidelines—in addition to the fact-checking and verification techniques you already use—can be helpful for detecting and combating disinformation when you’re covering breaking news.

Understanding the Psychology of Disinformation

September 28, 2023
As humans, we share certain psychological vulnerabilities that can make us susceptible to believing false narratives.

Navigating Generative AI and the Threat of Disinformation

September 27, 2023
We offer the following guidance for using generative AI and for guarding against potential mis- or disinformation created by AI tools.

Stay In Touch!

Stay in touch with PEN America by signing up for our newsletter, or reach out to us any time at [email protected].

Additional Disinformation Resilience Tools

Images

  • Tineye: To use Tineye, all you need to do is upload, paste, or enter an image URL. Tineye also allows you to sort the results from oldest to newest. However, TinEye only supports the following file formats: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, TIFF or WebP.
  • Google Images: either upload an image or paste an image URL by clicking the camera icon. The results will show you links to sites Google thinks are most relevant, visually similar images, and pages that include matching images, where you should pay special attention to the date when a page was published.
  • Know Your Meme: pretty self explanatory. A database of memes. Depending on the journo beat, they may want to familiarize themselves with this. When establishing a fact checking desk for an entire newsroom or training a journo whose beat is disinformation, knowledge of memes is good to have.
  • Yandex: click the camera icon, to upload an image or paste an image URL. Results will show you similar images and sites where the image is displayed.
  • InVID: InVID can help perform reverse searches for stills in video content. download the free plugin, which works with Chrome or Firefox. Once installed, you can click on the inVID icon on your browser and select “Open inVID.” There are many tabs and tutorials to explore, and Amnesty International’s Citizen Evidence Lab does a good job breaking them all down here. But a good place to start is to click on “analysis” and paste a YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter URL. Once you hit submit, the tool gives you useful metadata associated with the video, such as the upload time and number of likes and shares. It also breaks down social media video into thumbnails which you can then run a reverse image search on, using the tools at the bottom of the analysis page.
  • RevEYE Revers Image Search: This is a great tool because it is a one-stop-shop that aggregates all the other reverse image tools. download the browser extension. Once downloaded, simply right click on an image and scroll down to “reverse image search” with the eyeball icon. Select “all search engines.”

Limitations

  • Google and Yandex don’t order search results by date, so it can be difficult to find the earliest version. 
  • TinEye and Yandex require direct links to image files, so when searching for content embedded in Twitter posts, for instance, you must first open the actual image file itself in a separate window to get the URL the search engine can use.
  • There is no easy reverse image search tool for a full video; you can only run a reverse image search on a screen grab or thumbnail from a video. InVID makes that process easy by breaking down social media video into thumbnails, but sometimes its analysis tool doesn’t work if the social media user has enabled certain privacy/sharing restrictions.

Fact Checking 

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