PEN America understands disinformation—false information shared with the intent to deceive others—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
- 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.
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 rates the range of fact-checking, algorithmic, educational, and standards-based approaches being taken to counter the proliferation of fake news.
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.
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
Building Disinformation Resilience: How to Grow Audience Trust and Defend Against the Spread of False InformationSeptember 27, 2023
Disinformation Defense Toolkit: How to Use Online Verification and Bot Detection Tools to Spot DisinformationSeptember 27, 2023
Additional Disinformation Resilience Tools
- 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.”
- 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.
- Pinpoint: A research tool for journalists
- Fact Check Explorer
- Pi yao ba: Chinese language fact check
- Viet Fact Check
- Fact Chequeado