Shireen Mitchell on Fighting Back against Disinformation and Digital Voter Suppression
Many thanks to Shireen Mitchell for a great presentation on Sunday — and thanks as well to everybody who joined us and contributed excellent questions! Shireen’s organization Stop Online Violence Against Women is in the midst of launching the Stop Digital Voter Suppression grassroots reporting project (more about that below), so we really appreciate her taking the time to help educate us.
Here’s the full video, and the slides are also available. Please share widely … and, read on for things we can all do starting today to fight back against disinformation and digital voter suppression.
Shireen’s Deep dive on responding to disinfo and digital voter suppression is a good companion piece, going into more detail about what headlines are good or bad for debunking disinfo as well as how to respond to disinfo attacking Washington’s R-90 referendum.
Five things we can start doing today
In our post announcing the webinar, we talked about how grassroots activists can have a big impact against disinfo and digital voter suppression — and mentioned that one of our goals with the webinar was to give people actionable next steps. (There’s also several other great videos by Shireen there if you want to hear more from her.)
In aid of this, here’s a few things each of us can start doing now to have an impact.
1. Stop amplifying disinformation!
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. 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. Deep dive goes into more detail on this, and the Twitter thread has several short case studies.
2. Establish the counter-narrative
Instead of repeating the disinfo, amplify the messages you want people to hear. Lead with the facts; then debunk the disinfo (quoting it as necessary); end by restating the facts. Avoid right-wing sources, or left-wing sites that are known for being sloppy with the facts. For voting-related disinfo, emphasize information from the secretary of state and county election offices; use national sites like the vote411.org as a backup.
3. Use Kamala Harris’ own words to respond to birther attacks
Kamala Harris’ powerful story is a great example of a positive message to amplify in response to disinfo … and her own words are the best way of telling that story. Her acceptance speech at the DNC is one good source; Now This News’ 20 Questions for 2020: Kamala Harris has a lot of great stuff. There are plenty of other good sources out there as well. Here’s an excellent Instagram post (via Jeneé Osterheldt’s Boston Globe article Kamala Harris is a Black woman: It’s not complicated).
“My mother was very intentional about raising my sister, Maya, and me as strong, Black women. She coupled her teachings of civic duty and fearlessness with actions, which included taking us on Thursday nights to Rainbow Sign, a Black cultural center near our home….”
- Kamala Harris on Instagram
4. Get accurate voting information out early and often — and be ready to counter last-minute fake voting information as the election draws nearer
Misleading information about voting has long been a favorite technique for voter suppression, and this year there’s more than ever. Early voting starts in September in some states, so we should already be getting the word out — including encouraging people to double-check their registration and address and request an absentee ballot in states where that’s necessary.
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’ vote411.org link to all fifty states and so are good links to share if you’re trying to reach a national audience.
Here in Washington, it’s easy to check and update your registration (and register if necessary) at https://VoteWA.gov. Nationally, AARP has a good page with information about all the states.
5. Work together to fight back
As well as fighting back as individuals, we can also work together — for example, by putting together response teams, establishing a repository of vetted and well-framed responses, having training sessions.
Indivisible’s Truth Brigade is a good example of a response team. Sign up here and join in with their latest campaign fighting vote-by-mail disinfo. We’ll also be putting a team together at the state level.
Stop Online Violence Against Women’s new project Stop Digital Voter Suppression is another great example. Over the next few months leading up to the 2020 election, this project will supplementing SOVAW’s already-extensive data collection efforts with additional real-life experiences document which tactics are being used to suppress your votes. You can find out more at http://stoponlinevaw.com/stop-digital-voter-suppression-project/
Stay tuned for more — and get involved!
This webinar went so well that we’re already planning follow-ons. We’re also going to be building on our voter mobilization project, which once again got excellent results in the August primary, and working with other Indivisible groups across the state — and in other states, if you’re interested!
We’ll be discussing these at the Washington Indivisible Network meeting on September 14 — as well as announcing them on our Facebook page, Twitter account, and newsletter, and sharing them with other Indivisible groups in Washington. We’ll also have updates on Indivisible’s Truth Brigade, Stop Digital Voter Suppression, and other grassroots voter suppression projects. So stay tuned for more!
And even more importantly … get involved. The election’s just two months away, and the other side is using every trick in the book — including disinformation and digital voter suppression. It’s up to us to fight back.