PEN America releases Truth on the Ballot report

Warning about the risk of fraudulent news and online disinformation becoming a normalized part of U.S. political discourse, PEN America recently released Truth on the Ballot: Fraudulent News, the Midterm Elections, and Prospects for 2020The report provides a robust analysis of efforts to counter fraudulent news in the 2018 midterm election cycle, and stresses the importance of social media platforms, candidates, and political parties dramatically stepping up efforts to keep fraudulent news from badly polluting the 2020 election cycle.

The 50-page Truth on the Ballot catalogs and evaluates the steps taken by internet platforms, government agencies, and political parties to curb the influence of fraudulent news in the aftermath of the 2016 election; examines current legislative proposals toregulate advertising transparency online; parses the role fraudulent news played in the 2018 midterm election cycle; and offers recommendations to stakeholders on vital steps to combat fraudulent news while protecting free expression rights ahead of the 2020 election. It underscores the need for increased transparency regarding the funding of political ads, analyzing steps that technology companies have taken to address the problem and judging them often important, but insufficient. Additionally, the report reviews some of the most significant examples of fraudulent news during the 2018 election cycle and discusses how such disinformation shapes public discourse.

In addition to recommendations for technology companies, legislators, and political groups, Truth on the Ballot contains a first-of-its-kind Model Pledge Against Fraudulent News, a call to action for candidates and political parties to denounce fraudulent news and disinformation, and forswear its use. The Pledge also serves as a tool to empower citizens to take action and hold their elected officials and aspirants for public office accountable. You can read the Pledge here.

Truth on the Ballot builds on PEN America’s October 2017 report, Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth, which examined how fraudulent news is eroding truth-based civic discourse and constitutes a threat to free expression. At the time, the majority of public concern over fraudulent news fixated on foreign actors, including Russian disinformation agents and Macedonian clickbait farms. While foreign-originated disinformation remains a serious concern, Truth on the Ballot warns that domestic actors are increasingly experimenting with fraudulent news and disinformation as a bare-knuckled political tactic. The report offers a stark warning about the normalization of fraudulent news and disinformation as political tactics, sounding an alarm that such unsavory methods are becoming part of the toolbox of hotly contested modern campaigns.

You can read the full report here. Thank you for your continued support.

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