Mission & Values
Promoting Autonomy and Free Will
Information is the foundation of everything, from our opinions to our deeply personal decisions. It influences our choice of leaders and shapes our perception of the world. Unfortunately, by manipulating information, malicious actors can undermine the free will of others, gaining consent for actions that would otherwise be rejected with full knowledge. We advocate for the recognition of this as a severe violation of human rights, asserting that individuals have an unalienable right to accurate information free from manipulative mediums, messages, and messengers.
Dedication to Public Service
Our primary mission is to serve the public by placing the utmost importance on the belief that people can handle and are entitled to accurate information. Instead of relying on external fact-checking, we empower the public by enhancing their understanding of media manipulation, tactics, strategies, and common ploys. Additionally, we strive to create and promote publicly accessible tools for this purpose.
Commitment to Nonpartisanship
As a nonpartisan organization, we do not favor any political groups. However, we also avoid providing equal time to arguments of unequal merit, as doing so would be misleading. Our primary focus is to ensure that our work offers a comprehensive and contextualized understanding of the facts, free from media manipulation tactics. We do not seek to criticize an opposing group if the same group repeatedly engages in deceptive tactics, as this would be fundamentally unjust.
Why does this work matter?
In a crisis, we experience predictable mental changes . These information-processing changes leave us vulnerable to cognitive distortion and disinformation. Our biases and pre-existing beliefs only compound the problem. Although we know the most common information processing changes and general narratives remain relatively common across time and space, we have failed to integrate this subject into public health scholarship.
The threat posed by this oversight is not static. Today, a range of threat actors can reach us with a message tailored to our life experiences in a way impossible decades ago [2–5]. The power to convince the public to reject the precise means by which they could protect themselves or hold powerful interests accountable is within reach for more bad actors than ever before [6–8]. But, so, too, are the means by which we can face this challenge.
The cost of these influence efforts remains largely unappreciated, but even a single example would be sufficient to demonstrate the scale of financial loss. Based on The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security assessment on the cost of mis- and disinformation , the non-vaccination-associated costs from May 1, 2021, to March 1, 2022–322 days–totaled between $16.1 billion to $96.6 billion. Reducing mis- and disinformation-related vaccine avoidance by a mere 10% might have saved the U.S. between $1.1 billion to $9.6 billion in that period, using the figures estimated by the Center for Health Security.
Our vulnerabilities present an opportunity for maximum impact. While there is little we can do to eliminate the bad actors, we can prepare the public for the predation they now face. The evidence shows predictable mental changes in crisis, known and exploitable cognitive mechanisms, repeated false claims and themes across decades, and disaster types. We cannot afford to neglect this aspect of public health any longer.
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1. U.S. DHHS. CERC manual. In: CDC [Internet]. 25 Feb 2020 [cited 18 Mar 2022]. Available: https://emergency.cdc.gov/cerc/manual/index.asp 2. Forest JJF. Digital Influence Mercenaries: Profits and Power Through Information Warfare. Naval Institute Press; 2022. 3. Bradshaw S, Bailey H, Howard PN. Industrialized Disinformation. 2020 Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation. 2021. Available: https://demtech.oii.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/127/2021/02/CyberTroop-Report20-Draft9.pdf 4. CCDH. The Anti-vaxx Industry: How Big Tech powers and profits from anti-vaccine misinformation. In: Center for Countering Digital Hate [Internet]. Jul 2020. Available: https://www.counterhate.com/anti-vaxx-industry 5. Hao K. Troll farms reached 140 million Americans a month on Facebook before 2020 election, internal report shows. MIT Technology Review. 16 Sep 2021. Available: https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/09/16/1035851/facebook-troll-farms-report-us-2020-election/. Accessed 12 May 2022. 6. Gleeson R. Truth Dies First: Storyweapons on the InfoOps Battlefield. In: The Cyber Defense Review [Internet]. 27 Jul 2020 [cited 16 Aug 2022]. Available: https://cyberdefensereview.army.mil/CDR-Content/Articles/Article-View/Article/2288582/truth-dies-first-storyweapons-on-the-infoops-battlefield/ 7. McCarthy R. “Outright Lies”: Voting Misinformation Flourishes on Facebook. In: ProPublica [Internet]. 16 Jul 2020 [cited 16 Aug 2022]. Available: https://www.propublica.org/article/outright-lies-voting-misinformation-flourishes-on-facebook 8. Witzleb N, Paterson M. Micro-targeting in Political Campaigns: Political Promise and Democratic Risk. Data-Driven Personalisation in Markets, Politics and Law. Cambridge University Press; 2021. pp. 223–240. doi:10.1017/9781108891325.017 9. Bruns R, Hosangadi D, Trotochaud M, Sell TK. COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation and Disinformation Costs. In: Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security [Internet]. 2021 [cited 19 Mar 2022]. Available: https://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/our-work/publications/covid-19-vaccine-misinformation-and-disinformation-costs-an-estimated-50-to-300-million-each-da