UPDATE #2: Today is the last full day to back this project. Now is the time to make your pledge if you haven't already done so. See you at the finish line!
UPDATE: I wrote this post explaining why I've been doing this work and why I believe it's essential. You can read it on Medium. Excerpt below:
I started Ctrl Alt Right Delete because I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. The more we know about what happens in the dark corners of the Internet, the more we understand about how Donald Trump taps into those forces, the better equipped we are to fight back. I joke about reading 4chan so that you don’t have to but the truth is I think we all need a basic working knowledge of disinformation, how hate groups organize online, and influence operations. We can’t defeat an enemy we don’t understand. Helping others gain that knowledge is my passion and the best way I know how to fight against Trump and for democracy.
Hi, I'm Melissa Ryan, and I created the Ctrl Alt Right Delete newsletter. I've been researching and writing about the so-called alt right for the last year. Along the way, I've learned a lot about just how much danger democracy is in and I'm worried for the future. Fortunately, I have some ideas about what can be done, and more important I have a roster of experts who can help us all better understand our current political reality.
Conference Calls to Save Democracy (Yes really!)
Starting in September of 2017, I'll produce a series of 6 conference calls -- three for the public, and three exclusively for founding backers -- bringing together experts in media, technology, civil society, and national security. The calls will run twice a month and last for one hour. They'll be open to the press. Here is the schedule of calls.
Open to public and press:
- Wednesday, September 12, 1 PM EDT Bots & Computational Propaganda
- Wednesday, October 10, 1 PM EST European Elections Debrief
- Wednesday, November 7, 1 PM EST Combating Hate Online & Off
Open to backers and press:
- Wednesday, September 26, 1 PM EDT Conspiracy Theories & Right Wing Media
- Wednesday, October 24, 1 PM EST Connecting the dots: Russia and the Alt Right
- Wednesday, November 21, 1 PM EST What we know about Disinformation & Persuasion
My goal for these calls is to curate the wealth of knowledge that exists and make it as easy as possible for you to consume. Recordings of each call will be available to members on the Factual Democracy Project website, along with an archive of past editions of Ctrl Alt Right Delete.
Why Factual Democracy Project Matters
The U.S. presidential election of 2016 revealed how vulnerable Americans are to the effects of “fake news” – or, more accurately, propaganda, disinformation and misinformation. The foremost example of this activity in the U.S. is perpetrated by the so-called alt-right, a global network of white nationalists, misogynists and Second Amendment extremists. The Trump administration operates its own propaganda campaign while attacking traditional media at every turn. Finally, foreign actors – particularly Russia – are running active influence campaigns intended to undermine trust in our political institutions.
With the internet as its nervous system, these networks disseminate “fake news” and dank memes to manipulate public opinion, creating confusion, obfuscating the objective truth and eventually fostering detachment from the democratic process.
At the moment, there is no holistic approach to this challenge that includes technology, media, national security and civil society. And there are few resources for those looking to understand it at all.
I'm going to bring together experts and leaders within these four sectors where conversations are currently happening in silos, to help others understand the organization and execution of these influence operations. The four communities that have done the work so far are: media, technology, civil society, and national security.
This isn't My First Rodeo
In May, Jennifer Fiore and I hosted a debrief call about the French Election and the #MacronLeaks hack in the final 72 hours of the campaign. We weren’t interested in poll numbers or populism, but rather the information warfare waged in such a similar fashion as in the U.S. months earlier. Partnering with MisinfoCon, we quickly put together a call featuring experts in media, tech, national security, and civil society.
The four expert panelists on the call described the fallout from the hack from the perspectives of tech, media, national security, and civil society.
We had 103 registrations and a total of 65 listeners for most of the hour-long call. Immediately after the call we solicited feedback with a user survey. 92% of those surveyed said they’d be very or extremely likely to participate in future calls. Participants mostly worked in civil society, media, and technology.
Key quotes from participants:
- “Very informative and interesting. As an avid follower of the disinformation debate, I had heard some of it before, but it was good to get several different experts with different perspectives riffing off of one another.”
- “Very informative. Good details in how judgements were made, and discussion of at least one tool to use.”
- “I'd love to hear more about your efforts and get involved.”
If we raise $25,000 I'll add two more calls for December.
If we raise $30,000 I'll put together a live panel event in DC.
- I know that the best way to fight back against the alt-right coalition is to create a diverse coalition in response. These calls will always feature a diverse roster of expert panelists.
- I value dialog and feedback. I'll survey participants after every call to learn what went well and where there's room for improvement.
- I'm going to create a space for conversation. I'll do that by amplifying and curating the amazing work being done. The magic of these calls will be in the cross conversations and the tensions that spring from them.
Only the Beginning
Factual Democracy Project is an emerging organization. My newsletter was step one and I'm excited to expand with this series of calls. I've structured the rewards as memberships. Founding members will play a crucial role in making this series of calls happen, but your membership is annual. Founding Members who back this Kickstarter will help shape Factual Democracy Project, and we'll be soliciting your feedback every step of the way from launch, to the calls, and beyond.
I'm excited to bring this series of calls to life. But I can't do it without your support. Can I count you in?
Melissa Ryan is the author of the Ctrl Alt Right Delete newsletter and an expert at the intersection of politics and technology. She’s spent more than a decade leading digital campaigns for nonprofits and political races, including EMILY’s List, Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the New Organizing Institute, and Senator Russ Feingold.
Visit her website at melissaryan.net or follow her on Twitter @MelissaRyan.
This series is made possible in part thanks to the generous Civic Sponsorship of Ruth Ann Harnisch, an activist investor using private funds to underwrite this exchange of information so that YOU can take action to create the world you want to live in.
Risks and challenges
I'm putting together a heavy program on a short timeline with a modest budget. It's a daunting task to convene 6 calls, each featuring at least three different speakers. There are a lot of pieces to manage to make these calls successful and quickly release content for public consumption.
But I'm also a veteran organizer and communicator. I know what it takes to make an event successful. I know how vital it is that these calls are a good use of everyone's time whether you're a speaker or a participant. I'm motivated not just to do this series but to do it right.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)