By Zenzele Best

Over the past year, Assembly: Disinformation has brought together students, professionals, and experts deeply committed to understanding and making progress on problems related to disinformation and the spread of inauthentic content. This year’s program had three tracks: the Assembly Forum, Assembly Fellowship, and Assembly Student Fellowship. Guided by problem definitions developed during meetings of the Assembly Forum — an expert discussion group comprised of leaders in academia, civil society, government, and the private sector — the Assembly Fellows and Assembly Student Fellows developed team-based public interest project prototypes, sketches, and provocations scoped to specific aspects of the spread and consumption of disinformation. …

Misinfo Motives is a project created during the 2020 Assembly Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly: Disinformation Program, the Assembly Fellowship convenes professionals from across disciplines and sectors to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Each fellow participated as an individual, and not as a representative of their organization. Assembly Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from program advisors and staff.

The Misinfo Motives project and this post were authored by John Hess, Michaela Lee, Isabelle Rice, and Brian Scully; the project team has backgrounds in human rights, government, and software engineering.

Into the Voids is a project created during the 2020 Assembly Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly: Disinformation Program, the Assembly Fellowship convenes professionals from across disciplines and sectors to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Each fellow participated as an individual, and not as a representative of their organization. Assembly Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from program advisors and staff.

The Into the Voids project and this post were authored by EC, Rafiq Copeland, Jenny Fan, and Tanay Jaeel; the project team has backgrounds in human rights, policymaking, design, and project management.

Semaphore is a project created during the 2020 Assembly Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly: Disinformation Program, the Assembly Fellowship convenes professionals from across disciplines and sectors to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Each fellow participated as an individual, and not as a representative of their organization. Assembly Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from program advisors and staff.

The Semaphore project and this post were authored by John Hess, Michaela Lee, and Isabelle Rice; the project team has backgrounds in software engineering, development, and human rights.

Disinfodex is a project created during the 2020 Assembly Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly: Disinformation Program, the Assembly Fellowship convenes professionals from across disciplines and sectors to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Each fellow participated as an individual, and not as a representative of their organization. Assembly Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from program advisors and staff.

The Disinfodex project and this post were authored by Gülsin Harman, Rhona Tarrant, Ashley Tolbert, Neal Ungerleider, and Clement Wolf; the project team has backgrounds in journalism, policymaking, and cybersecurity.

Coordinated Authentic Behavior is a project created during the 2020 Assembly Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly: Disinformation Program, the Assembly Fellowship convenes professionals from across disciplines and sectors to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Each fellow participated as an individual, and not as a representative of their organization. Assembly Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from program advisors and staff.

The Coordinated Authentic Behavior project and this post were authored by Maggie Engler, Olya Gurevich, Michelle Linch, and Dylan Moses; the project team has backgrounds in policymaking, cybersecurity, and linguistics.

Youth and Disinformation Literacy is a project created during the 2019–2020 Assembly Student Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly Program, the Assembly Student Fellowship convenes Harvard students from across a variety of schools and disciplines to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Assembly Student Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from program advisors and staff.

The Youth and Disinformation Literacy infographic and this post was authored by Matthew Finney (SEAS ‘20), Michael Jasper (College ‘21), and Jennifer Nilsen (HKS ‘20).

Young people convene on the internet to create, consume, and share political information, but many first-time voters lack tools to identify and confront false, misleading and inauthentic information. A full 62% of Gen Z and Millennial voters worry that they can’t spot misleading information online, according to a January 2020 NPR/PBS/Marist poll. Worse, social media platforms are especially vulnerable to disinformation, with young voters much more likely than older voters to get news through social media. …

This work was created during the 2019–2020 Assembly Student Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly Program, the Assembly Student Fellowship convenes Harvard students from across a variety of schools and disciplines to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Assembly Student Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from program advisors and staff.

By Christine Keung (HBS ’20), Cierra Robson (GSAS ’24), Flora Wang (HLS ’20), and Tyler Yoo (SEAS ’21).

Harassment and disinformation are often treated as separate categories by content platforms. Yet, individuals of diverse backgrounds often face some intersection of these two phenomenons. Minority politicians and political candidates in particular often deal with misinformation that is racially charged, relies on gendered language, or specifically centers on a candidate’s national origin. Disinformation campaigns against the Obama administration, for example, attempted to undercut his success by suggesting that he was not born in the United States. Similarly, Senators Kamala Harris and Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, and many more at the local, state, and national levels have had to navigate disinformation campaigns online that specifically center around a legally protected identity characteristic. …

A Taxonomy of COVID-19 Disinformation is a project created during the 2019–2020 Assembly Student Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly Program, the Assembly Student Fellowship convenes Harvard students from across a variety of schools and disciplines to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Assembly Student Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from faculty advisors and staff.

The taxonomy and this post were authored by Jayshree Sarathy (GSAS ‘24), Sandhira Wijayaratne (HMS ‘20), and Michael Wornow (College ‘20).

With backgrounds in computer science, statistics, and medicine, our Assembly Student Fellow group considered a number of potential project ideas at the intersection of disinformation, technology, and health. However, with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and the infodemic surrounding it, we pivoted toward studying coronavirus-related disinformation. As COVID-19’s global footprint increased in size, we felt overwhelmed by the confusing flood of misinformation left in its wake. What content was deemed inauthentic, and who were the authenticators? What were the motivations behind the various disinformation campaigns around the virus? How were stakeholders keeping up with an infodemic growing as fast as the pandemic on which it was based? …

WTF is CDA is a project of the 2019–2020 Assembly Student Fellowship at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. One of three tracks in the Assembly Program, the Assembly Student Fellowship convenes Harvard students from across a variety of schools and disciplines to tackle the spread and consumption of disinformation. Assembly Student Fellows conducted their work independently with light advisory guidance from program advisors and staff.

WTF is CDA was developed by Sam Clay (GSD ’20), Jess Eng (College ’21), Sahar Kazranian (HDS ’20, HKS ’20), Sanjana Parikh (Berkeley Law ’20), and Madeline Salinas (HLS ’20).

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Design Credits to Jenny Fan

Senator Josh Hawley wants to end the tech industry’s “sweetheart deal” with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) by passing legislation that expands publisher liability. President Trump recently signed an Executive Order taking aim at CDA 230 and followed up with a series of tweets, including: “REVOKE 230.” Meanwhile, advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation fear that changing CDA 230 will strengthen big tech’s power over online speech. But what exactly is CDA 230, and what does it have to do with the spread of misinformation and disinformation on the internet today? …

About

Assembly at the Berkman Klein Center

Assembly @BKCHarvard brings together students, technology professionals, and experts drawn to explore disinformation in the digital public sphere.

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