Want to Help Combat Disinformation? Show Us What You’re Seeing.

We’ll investigate who’s behind the misleading information and why they’re hoping to disseminate it.

Mother Jones illustration; Getty

In late July, Facebook announced it had removed nearly three dozen pages that had been involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” intended to “mislead” users ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The pages—which appeared across both Facebook and the company’s photo-sharing platform, Instagram—shared content that amplified positions espoused by American liberals, such as the “Abolish ICE” platform. They also advertised fake events intended to attract progressive activists, like a “Trump Nightmare Must End” rally in Times Square. (You can see samples of the content Facebook removed here.) While Facebook hasn’t yet completed its investigation into who orchestrated the effort, the company told federal lawmakers that it suspects a Russian group is behind them.

 

A sample post from “Resisters,” one of the pages Facebook removed late last month 

Facebook

Our team at Mother Jones is keeping a close eye on the ways in which social-media platforms and lawmakers are trying to stop these sorts of massive coordinated efforts, but we know not all attempts to disseminate misinformation originate with sophisticated foreign agents. On Monday, for example, Facebook removed pages belonging to Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who—through his website Infowars—has been a chief propagator of false information that’s reached millions of social-media users. And while Jones may be off the platform, his imitators are here to stay. Facebook said Jones’ removal had been based on his use of “hate speech that attacks or dehumanizes others” rather than Infowars‘ involvement in spreading misinformation. That reasoning builds on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s statement last month that he wasn’t planning to ban conspiracy theorists from his company’s sites.

 

A 2015 Infowars post suggesting that a student who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre had appeared among the children in a 2014 school shooting in Pakistan 

Infowars

What Facebook’s recent actions illustrate is that misinformation comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, misinformation looks like an advertisement advocating a particular position. Other examples, such as Infowars posts, look just like news articles—but they’re telling a story that can’t be factually verified. One of the most common characteristics of misinformation is that it’s intended to manipulate your emotions and elicit a reaction. (You can read our FAQ on spotting misinformation here.)

A few months ago, we asked you to join our new effort to track and fight disinformation ahead of the midterm elections. Many of you raised your hand, and we’re eager to start working with those of you who volunteered. Right now, however, we have a specific ask: Have you seen any social-media posts—on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter—that seem to be sharing misleading information? If you point these out to us, we’ll investigate who’s behind them and what their interest in disseminating misleading information might be.

Share links and describe what you’re seeing in the form below, or email us screenshots at talk@motherjones.com.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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