Deep dive: responding to disinfo and digital voter suppression: video, next steps, and 4 things you can start doing today

Indivisible Plus Washington
5 min readSep 28, 2020

Many thanks to Shireen Mitchell for leading a great discussion of disinformation and digital voter suppression! Thanks as well to everybody who joined us and contributed to the excellent discussion, and to Washington Indivisible Network for co-sponsoring.

Here’s the video

The slides are available here. There’s also a lot more information about disinfo and digital voter suppression in Shireen’s earlier Fighting Back webinar, and the backgrounder we put together.

Some next steps:

And here’s four things you can do starting today

1. Stop amplifying disinformation!
2. Establish the counter-narrative
3. Get accurate voting information out early and often
4. Report digital voter suppression when you see it.

Read on for more …

Stop amplifying disinformation!

Don’t amplify disinfo! Think before you engage or share. Avoid headlines that include the disinfo. Be careful!

It’s very easy to unintentionally amplify disinformation when you’re trying to debunk it — for example by sharing an article that includes the disinformation in the headline. Instead, look for headlines and articles that focus on the accurate information, or report that there’s disinfo but don’t repeat it. Sometimes, this is harder than it seems! Check out some of the examples in today’s webinar.

If you can’t find a headline and article that work well, consider just quoting a few lines from an article (or taking a screenshot) rather than linking. Again, there’s examples in the webinar.

Establish the counter-narrative

Establish the counter-narrative. Amplify positive messages. Choose appropriate sources. Know your audience!

The best way to respond to disinfo is to change the narrative to focus on the the messages you want people to hear. The Approve R-90 campaign, for example, suggests responding by saying “Contrary to what you might have heard, what Referendum 90 really does is …” and then talking about the positive aspects. For R-90, that gives you a chance to bring up that it teaches how to prevent pregnancy and STIs, affirmative consent, and social and emotional learning (the bullet points on the site have some great language to use as well). It’s not just R-90, though — this is a great technique in general!

It’s best to choose sources that will be credible with your audience. Avoid sites that are known for being sloppy with the facts (even if you agree with their politics!). For voting-related disinfo, emphasize information from the secretary of state and county election offices; you can also use national sites like the as a backup.

Get accurate voting information out early and often

Okay, we didn’t actually talk much about this in today’s webinar; but Shireen discussed it in detail in August’s Fighting Back webinar, and it’s still extremely important! Misleading information about voting has long been a favorite technique for voter suppression, and this year there’s more than ever. Early voting has already started in some states, so it’s a great time to be sharing voting information.

Voting rules are different in every state, so it’s best emphasize information from your Secretary of State and even specific county’s election offices. [If you’re in Washington, here’s a handy list of all the county election offices websites and addresses.] Sites like the League of Women Voters’ and AARP‘s voting information page link to all fifty states and so are good links to share if you’re trying to reach a national audience.

Here in Washington, voting officially starts on October 16, and ballots will be mailed out before that. So now’s a great time to check and update your registration (and register if necessary) — and remind your friends and relatives to check their registration as well! How to check your voter registration and address using has detailed instructions and screenshots.

Report digital voter suppression when you see it

The caption below the image has the definition of digital voter suppression.
Digital Voter Suppression: The use of online services/platforms to distribute inaccurate, misinformation, disinformation, false data, mobile messages, and/or images for the purpose of suppressing the vote during any election season. This is often used in conjunction with or in addition to physical voter suppression activities that have a digital, social networking, technical or mobile component.

One of the big challenges with digital voter suppression is that so much of it happens in private communications — in email, messaging, secret groups, and texts. And even when it’s happening in more public forms like Facebook pages and ads and YouTube videos, it can get below the radar of disinfo researches and voting rights groups.

Stop Digital Voter Suppression is a grassroots reporting project to counter this. You can help by reporting digital voter suppression whenever you see it via this form.

If you’d like to get more involved, sign up as a Stop Digital Voter Suppression member here.

Stop digital voter suppression logo

About Shireen Mitchell

Shireen Mitchell, aka digitalsista, is the founder of Stop Digital Voter Suppression, a member of the Real Facebook Oversight Board, and has been fighting disinformation for over a decade. Her groundbreaking 2018 work analyzing Facebook ads highlighted the racially-targeted aspects of digital voter suppression in the 2016 campaign; Jessie Daniels (author of Race in Cyberspace) describes it as “an urgently needed reminder that we ignore the way racism is woven into technology at our own peril.” Shireen has discussed disinformation and digital voter suppression in a wide variety of venues including MSNBC, The Root, Netroots Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, and the Washington Post. She is also the founder of Digital Sisters/Sistas, the first organization dedicated to bringing women and girls of color online, and Stop Online Violence Against Women (SOVAW).



Indivisible Plus Washington

Indivisible Plus Washington is a state-wide organization focused on voter engagement and turn out, fighting disinformation, and combatting systemic oppression