Disinformation Issue Page Hero Image

Disinformation

The Issue

PEN America understands disinformation as a fundamental threat to free expression and democracy. The PEN Charter, drafted in 1948, commits to fighting “mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.” PEN America has taken up this urgent issue as a core part of our work, beginning in 2017 with the publication of our report Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth, in which we anticipated the potential risks if disinformation went unchecked, including “unending political polarization and gridlock; the undermining of the news media as a force for government accountability; a long-term risk to the viability of serious news; an inability to devise and implement fact- and evidence-driven policies; the vulnerability of public discourse to manipulation by private and foreign interests; an increased risk of panic and irrational behavior among citizens and leaders; and government overreach, unfettered by a discredited news media and detached citizenry.” Today we see a deluge of falsehoods, in words and images, injected into the public conversation, often in deliberate campaigns by sources who seek political, financial, or societal advantage. Disinformation impedes the public’s access to the accurate information needed for civic engagement and informed decision-making, and disrupts the practice of journalism itself, as evidenced in our 2022 report, Hard News: Journalists and the Threat of Disinformation. It undermines our public discourse, sows discord, and weakens our political system and ultimately our democracy upon which free expression rights rest.

PEN America believes an empowered public and vibrant news ecosystem are the best means of countering disinformation’s pernicious effects. As such, we work with journalists and newsrooms, community leaders, researchers, policymakers, tech platforms, and other stakeholders to enable equitable access to credible information and advance a healthy information landscape.

Reports

Hard News Featured Image

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.

Media Literacy Report 50 50 Content Block Image

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

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

Stanford Study: PEN America Workshops Significantly Improved Participants’ Digital Media Literacy Skills to Counter Disinformation

September 29, 2022
To counter that threat PEN America launched its Knowing the News media literacy program in 2020 to equip the public with the knowledge and skills to defend against disinformation. In 2021, PEN America partnered with four organizations that are deeply invested in the health and empowerment of their respective communities: Mi Familia Vota, National Action Network; Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the National Congress of American Indians to stem the impact of COVID-19- and vaccine-related misinformation in communities of color. In order to better understand the effectiveness of our media literacy workshops, PEN America partnered with the Stanford Social Media Lab to evaluate the workshops. As the Stanford researchers note in their white paper, there is surprisingly scant research available assessing the effectiveness of interventions to counter the impact of disinformation in communities of color, despite the fact that these communities are frequent targets of disinformation.

PEN America Convenes Celebrated Authors Sept. 12 in NYC for “Words on Fire: Writing, Freedom, and the Future” Symposium

August 29, 2022
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel says, “The murderous attack on Salman Rushdie marks a watershed moment for our organization. Coming in the middle of our 100th anniversary year, it is a clarion call that while some threats to free expression confront us daily, others lie in wait. This moment of unparalleled threats to truth and open discourse demand a doubling down in our vigilant defense of the fundamental freedoms that underpin an open society.  At a time when free speech is dismissed, misunderstood, bastardized and wrongfully blamed, the Symposium will offer a galvanizing rallying point to remind us what we are defending when we defend free speech and why these intensifying fights must be waged and can be won.  We are buoyed by the extraordinary response to a Symposium that will unite generations of writers, journalists, publishers, editors, readers, philanthropists and opinion leaders to face the uncertain future of free speech, and renew their collective vow to defend it.”

PEN America and the Venezuelan American Caucus Present an Online Workshop to Help Stop the Spread of Digital Disinformation Ahead of the Midterm Elections

June 17, 2022
Participants will learn strategies for uplifting credible, culturally attuned, in-language news and information. The goal is to empower participants with communication strategies for expressing the value of media literacy as a leader and trusted messenger in their communities

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