Reducing harms, increasing transparency and understanding, and building trust will be the focus of the six-month study on combatting America’s urgent mis- and disinformation challenge
Contact: Carner Derron
Washington, DC, July 13, 2021 – After consulting a range of experts to establish the scope and scale of America’s mis- and disinformation crisis, and considerable deliberation, the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder today announces its priorities in a new Interim Report. The 15 commissioners and three co-chairs, representing a diversity of perspectives, expertise, and experience, have identified three areas of focus: (1) reducing harms, (2) increasing transparency and understanding, and (3) building trust.
In the next phase of the work, the group will make actionable recommendations for addressing these challenges in the near term as well as chart a path for a series of longer-term interventions.
The priorities are defined as follows:
- Reducing Harms: Interventions that reduce the worst harms of disinformation, such as threats to public health, election integrity, and targeting of communities through hate speech and extremism
- Increasing Transparency and Understanding: Enhancing access to and inquiry into platforms’ practices, and a deeper examination of the information environment and its interdependencies
- Building Trust: Exploration of the challenges the country faces in building and rebuilding trust in the institutions people count on to support informed public discourse and debate, and the role that access to reliable facts and content plays in those conversations
For each of the three priorities, the Commission will consider opportunities for intervention and innovation, towards the development of actionable recommendations that will have both short- and long-term impact on information disorder in the below areas:
- Structures and Systems: Business models, incentives, and practices
- User Resilience: Civic discourse and media literacy
- Government Leadership: Oversight and action
An effort of the Aspen Digital program — and co-chaired by renowned journalist Katie Couric, cybersecurity expert Chris Krebs, and racial justice leader Rashad Robinson — the Commission embarked in April 2021 on a six-month work plan.
The Commission has met twice per month via video conference to hear from experts and discuss the most pressing issues. Between meetings, they have already studied more than 500 pages of news articles, academic papers, research reports, and opinion pieces, materials that are available to the public in the Knowledge Center. Aspen Digital staff have also produced a video/podcast series, Disinfo Discussions, in which 25 experts from diverse backgrounds, skills, and experiences weigh in on the crisis, creating more than 600 minutes of expert understanding on information disorder.
Commission members span the political spectrum and represent academia, government, philanthropy, and civil society, going beyond typical experts on disinformation to take a broader view. Throughout the work, they have incorporated a series of values and principles into their approach. First, the Commission takes a non-partisan, non-ideological approach that focuses on the integrity of the information ecosystem, not bad-faith attacks or specific partisan battles. Second, the group is prioritizing structural fixes that will reduce the impact of information disorder at scale across multiple communities, government, and the traditional and social media ecosystems. Finally, they will identify areas for subsequent work and map out a plan for future engagement, research, and innovation.
The group not only seeks to counter disinformation but also aspires toward a better state of information, one that goes beyond reliable facts to achieve more effective ways of understanding one another and that renews avenues for building trust. These are the foundations of an information ecosystem that can nurture America’s fragile democracy.
The Interim Report can be read here. The next phase of work will include a deeper exploration of the Commission’s three priorities, through which the group will develop its final recommendations. Individuals and organizations working in this space are invited to engage with the Commission on their own relevant work to help ensure it builds on existing studies and initiatives with shared goals. The report detailing the final recommendations will be published in early Fall.
This effort is generously funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the giving organization of the founder of craigslist and Aspen Digital’s biggest supporter. It should be noted that the Commission on Information Disorder represents the views and recommendations of its members, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Aspen Institute. To learn more about the Commission, please visit its website at AspenInfoCommission.org.
Aspen Digital empowers policy-makers, civic organizations, companies, and the public to be responsible stewards of technology and media in the service of an informed, just, and equitable world. A program of the Aspen Institute, we shine a light on urgent global issues across cybersecurity, the information ecosystem, emerging technology, the industry talent pipeline, tech and communications policy, and innovation. We then turn ideas to action and develop human solutions to these digital challenges.
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.