On January 6, 2021, an armed mob stormed the US Capitol to prevent the certification of what they claimed was a “fraudulent election.” Many Americans were shocked, but they needn’t have been. The January 6 insurrection was the culmination of months of online mis- and dis-information directed toward eroding American faith in the 2020 election.
How did this happen?
That’s the subject of the Election Integrity Partnership‘s in-depth report, The Long Fuse: Misinformation and the 2020 Election. A partnership between Stanford Internet Observatory, Graphika, the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab, and our own University of Washington’s iSchool-based Center for an Informed Public, the partnership set three primary goals during the election cycle and after:
- identify mis- and disinformation before it went viral and during viral outbreaks;
- share clear, accurate counter messaging; and
- increase understanding of the dynamics shaping the information space during the 2020 election and its aftermath.
It’s easy to blame the abstract “social media” for causing such an event but this is irresponsible. What’s really needed in America is something else beyond blame: the unpopular word of these times “responsibility.” There are around 10,000 state and local election offices and they are ostensibly monitored by dozens of federal agencies like the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, the FBI, and others. But that’s the problem. There are dozens. There is no singular agency that focuses on election misinformation originating from domestic sources within the United States. With no one stepping up to that responsibility, it is easy to manipulate information.
The report is more than just an analysis of “what went wrong,” however. It contains also concrete and sensible recommendations for ensuring this does not happen in the future on the federal or any other level. We at The Star think this sort of report is long overdue, and well worth perusal by every American citizen.