As the networked media environment increasingly permeates private and public life, driven in part by the rapid and extensive travels of news, information and commentary, our systems for identifying and responding to misinformation and propaganda are failing us, creating serious risk to everything from personal and financial health, to fundamental democratic processes and governance. In this age when many would argue that news and information have become key ingredients of broad social progress, our supply is tainted.Concerns about misinformation and disinformation are nothing new. Indeed, many tried and true techniques remain just as vibrant in this new communications and information era. But digital media presents new challenges to existing institutions, structures and processes, jeopardizing its potential contributions to the health of political, economic, and social systems.
While opinions differ over how digital media ameliorates and exacerbates the spread and influence of misinformation, this multifaceted issue persists in the face of thoughtful, sustained, and creative responses—and demonstrates a great diversity of manifestations, roots, and harms. The motives for spreading misinformation are many. They may be partisan or commercial, may derive from or evoke moral and religious sensibilities, may offer political or social commentary or may be merely whimsical. But what to do? Building upon recent convenings and a number of related projects, we are taking a critical step towards a deeper understanding of the problem with a keen eye towards collectively identifying novel solutions and concrete actions to combat the deleterious impacts of misinformation in the near term and over time.