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 aid of this, here’s a few things each of us can start doing now to have an impact.

1. Stop amplifying disinformation!

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

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

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’ acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention

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).

A woman with two young children
A woman with two young children

“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

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

Ways to fight back collaboratively (listed in the article’s text)
Ways to fight back collaboratively (listed in the article’s text)

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!

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.

Written by

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store