Dec 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Nonprofit coalition demands Biden act on misinformation

Illustration of a hand cursor connected to a lie detector test

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A large collection of nonprofits is sending an open letter today calling on the incoming Biden-Harris administration to do a better job of both educating the public on misinformation and taking stronger action to protect the health care system, voting process and other critical institutions.

Why it matters: Misinformation amplified on social media has worn down the factual foundations of democracy and led to an upsurge in conspiracy theories on everything from the 2020 election results to how COVID-19 spreads.

Details: The letter makes a number of proposals, including adding a disinformation expert to the COVID-19 vaccine effort, creating a national site for debunking misinformation modeled on CISA’s “Rumor Control” site and tapping the Education Department to develop media literacy standards.

  • The groups also want the Justice Department to apply the Voting Rights Act to online voter suppression efforts.
  • Signatories include dozens of mostly left-leaning groups, ranging from Common Cause to Greenpeace USA to New America's Open Technology Institute and the Secure Elections Network.

Between the lines: Organizers, which include Accountable Tech, MapLight and Avaaz, say the goal of the effort was to figure out what's doable in an administration with a lot on its plate — understanding that tech priorities may not be first in line.

What they're saying: "Your administration faces urgent and unprecedented challenges, from steering us past a deadly pandemic to reversing the decay of our democratic institutions," the groups wrote in the letter.

  • "It’s a daunting to-do list, and our intention is not to add new items. Rather, we encourage you to recognize disinformation as a ubiquitous and foundational impediment to tackling those challenges."
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