It’s been roughly three years since a sophisticated Russian plot to interfere with American elections exposed just how vulnerable our country has become to the spread of deceptive and divisive information online. We lacked the laws and systems to combat deceptive digital politics in 2016, and we have yet to make significant progress with the 2020 election quickly approaching.
From bots and troll armies to the spread of fake news, misleading social media ads, “deepfake” videos and hyper-partisan websites, the information ecosystem online is littered with political content we call “digital deception”—and the issue goes far beyond Russian meddling. Irresponsible practices from big technology companies and a lack of government regulation have combined to give way to an online framework that amplifies misinformation and deprives Americans of the transparency to properly evaluate political messages. Our democracy has been hacked.
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At the same time, a growing movement of activists, academics, journalists and policymakers have recognized digital deception as an existential threat to an accountable and responsive democracy. There’s a growing body of research to help us better understand the scale and scope of the problem, as well as increased discussion around the solutions we need. Recently, MapLight highlighted the different approaches in the states to combat digital deception, outlined best practices for using political advertising databases, and called on technology companies to work together to address major issues.
News and research on this issue is evolving quickly, and it’s not going away anytime soon. To track the latest, sign up for MapLight’s weekly newsletter, Digital Deception Decoder. We follow the webs of entities that seek to manipulate public opinion, their political spending ties, and the actors working to safeguard our democracy—compiling the information you need right in your inbox.
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