Building on the monitoring capacity that APIAVote established in 2020, we have expanded our capacity to monitor and analyze disinformation trends as they pertain to voting rights, elections, democracy, anti-Asian hate, narratives about our communities, and narratives originating from our communities. With this information, we publish a bi-weekly disinformation report to provide our ACE network, ethnic media contacts, and other national partners. With these reports, national and local partners can take our research and analysis to conduct constructive actions and promote good information. We also create content for our partners to use based on our findings as well.
APIAVote has put together a guide to help our partners and volunteers with this task, and other helpful resources and responses for confronting and combating disinformation, misinformation, and other harmful narratives that arise.
There must be policy change to hold social media companies accountable and to restructure the ways in which they handle disinformation and other problematic content. There must also be societal-level improvement in media literacy, and consequences for problematic entities who knowingly push out and profit from disinformation.
These changes will not happen overnight, however. In the meantime, these are important steps that can be taken to combat disinformation.
This is the number one rule of combating disinformation. Engaging with a problematic post, whether it is positive or negative reaction, gives it a wider audience due to the way algorithms work. One should only engage with a problematic post if it has already gone viral and your comment may be the only factual information a viewer sees.
Before we dive any deeper, let’s be clear: disseminating good information means nothing if people are unable to understand it. With nearly 30% of AAPIs having limited English proficiency, it is crucial efforts to confront disinformation in AAPI communities incorporate translated materials/resources.
One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of problematic narratives is to put out good information before bad information reaches a person. Those who are exposed to problematic information but were previously exposed to countering good information are more likely to be skeptical of something that contradicts something they already know.
As mentioned, bad actors rely on engagement, positive AND negative, to get their message out to more people. Taking a minute to assess how widespread and dangerous a narrative actually is is critical to determining if engaging with the narrative is more harmful than helpful.
Some key questions to ask oneself when making this determination:
Asking yourself these questions can help one analyze the severity of content.
If you have come to the conclusion a response is necessary, George Lakoff, an esteemed cognitive linguist and philosopher, suggests using a “Truth Sandwich” to talk about it.
A truth sandwich includes:
While everyone is a trusted messenger to those in their close circles, it’s important to have a conversation with oneself about if your target audience trusts you. If the audience you are trying to reach does not recognize your agency, it’s time to enlist others.
Who in the community do people look up to? Who is a well-regarded individual in a given topic area? Who is a notable person people listen to? Who is a friend or family member people respect? These are the figures people will listen to, and have a higher chance of getting a message through to those who may need to hear it the most. Consider working with these figures, and have them go to their communities, following, or audience to disseminate good information.
Another strategy is to avoid directly arguing about specific claims and instead emphasize a messenger or messengers cannot be trusted. This may include pointing out they lack the medical credentials, have a history of making false claims, or have ties to well-known problematic and/or conspiratorial entities. This can be more productive than attempting to convince people which “facts” are correct.
If you come across problematic content, you are often able to report it. While reporting posts has mixed results of success, it is one of the easiest and most accessible tools at our disposal to get something taken down, or at least flagged, by social media companies. Enlisting others to report the same post increases your chances, however!