(New York, NY) — As the nation girds itself for an election unlike any before, PEN America today unveiled What To Expect When You’re Electing, designed to inoculate Americans against the scourge of disinformation in the weeks ahead. As the principal national organization of writers committed to defending free expression and the freedom to write, PEN America has enlisted leading names including John Lithgow, Tayari Jones, Alan Cumming, Ann Patchett, Brit Bennett, Jennifer Egan, and more to raise their voices in defense of fact-based discourse and to urge the public to fight back against the threat of disinformation.

#WhatToExpect2020 includes a series of digital PSAs featuring an all-star cast urging Americans to spot, check, and stop the flow of disinformation; a partnership with Washington Post Live for a series of national conversations aimed to ensure that the public knows what to expect as it goes to the polls and is equipped to resist attempts to mislead or deceive; an interactive quiz (to launch Thursday, October 1) to guide users through the pitfalls of disinformation; multi-lingual tip sheets and resources to share with friends and family to stop the spread of disinformation; and a series of virtual disinformation defense trainings and town hall convenings with regional reporters and editors covering the election to equip audiences with the tools they need to make sense of this tumultuous campaign season.

“Tonight, as President Trump and former Vice President Biden take the debate stage, it’s a reminder that the fate of truth is on the ballot,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America and author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All. “Disinformation is a full-scale threat to our democracy, shattering public trust in our institutions and driving Americans into hostile warring camps. The best defense to disinformation is an engaged public, alert to the dangers and equipped to spot and halt the flow of fraudulent information within their networks.”

As part of #WhatToExpect2020, PEN America is producing a series of explainers and other materials to prepare Americans for what they might encounter in the coming weeks. In partnership with trusted allies including All Voting is Local, First Draft News, Voto Latino, Common Cause, Protect Democracy, the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, and more, PEN America is leading live disinformation defense trainings and regional virtual town halls in swing states including Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and Arizona to prepare Americans for disinformation concerning mail-in balloting; confusion over polling places amid the pandemic; and uncertainties surrounding how and when election results will be decided due to the high volume of absentee ballots.

“This is an election like none before it,” said PEN America’s Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. free expression programs. “Spreaders of disinformation are poised to exploit this moment of uncertainty, already spreading lies and half-truths across the mostly unregulated space of social media platforms and other digital channels. Historically, disinformation has disproportionately targeted communities of color. Now more than ever, these kinds of misleading narratives threaten voters’ sense of empowerment and their trust in our democracy. We’re committed to doing everything we can to help communities have the tools to fight back.”

In partnership with Washington Post Live, PEN America will be presenting weekly conversations about voting rights, disinformation, and the electoral landscape. Online, PEN America’s PSA series features Anita Hill, Tayari Jones, John Lithgow, Alan Cumming, Kali Fajardo Anstine, Jennifer Egan, Brit Bennett, Ann Patchett, and Wajahat Ali. The digital PSA series will also be accompanied by an interactive quiz and pledge, urging digital audiences to test their knowledge of disinformation and providing resources and tip sheets.

For more information about the campaign, visit our #WhatToExpect2020 website. Digital PSAs and other assets are available license-free for distribution. Contact [email protected] for details.