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Former CISA Director Krebs and Former Congressman William Hurd both Commissioners on Information Disorder Report

The first Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Christopher Krebs, established the Rumor Control program at CISA – one of the first large-scale governmental efforts to challenge online disinformation campaigns.

Now in the private sector, Mr. Krebs post-government career led us to an interesting Aspen Institute effort  – Aspen Digital’s Commission on Information Disorder Report – of which Krebs is a co-chair, along with Katie Couric (Journalist and Founder, Katie Couric Media) and Rashad Robinson (President, Color of Change). Commission members include the OODA Network’s Congressman William Hurd, along with other leading internet researchers and policymakers.

The Commission Report is an effort by Aspen Digital, a program of the Aspen Institute, which focuses on global, multidisciplinary issues across “cybersecurity, the information ecosystem, emerging technology, the industry talent pipeline, tech, and communications policy, and innovation.”

The commission website describes their initial efforts as establishing “the scope and scale of America’s mis- and disinformation crisis.”

In July, the commission published an interim report influenced by Aspen Digital’s commitment to “action and solutions”. The report is designed accordingly, with a list of priorities. According to the commission, the following priorities were determined through a series of expert briefings, structured conversations and roundtables, and surveys of existing research:

  • Reducing Harms: Interventions that reduce the worst harms of disinformation, such as threats to public health, election integrity, and targeting of communities through hate speech and extremism
  • Increasing Transparency and Understanding: Enhancing access to and inquiry into platforms’ practices, and a deeper examination of the information environment and its interdependencies
  • Building Trust: Exploration of the challenges the country faces in building and rebuilding trust in the institutions people count on to support informed public discourse and debate, and the role that access to reliable facts and content plays in those conversations

Disinformation Continues Unabated Alongside Efforts to Improve the Information Ecosystem

Since July, the commission efforts have continued as the disinformation crisis continues unabated worldwide, with Facebook recently uncovered one of the largest troll farms ever in Nicaragua (which was run by the government); ransomware gangs adding disinformation and influence campaigns to their arsenal;  ongoing, aggressive Russian disinformation efforts on western media channels and Facebook; and Brazil’s far-right disinformation pushers find a safe space on Telegram.

Next week, the commission will be making available and discussing their final report: Towards a Stronger Information Ecosystem: Commission on Information Disorder Report & Recommendations. The final report builds on the initial priorities, taking into consideration opportunities for intervention and innovation and will be organized around actionable recommendations in the following areas:

  • Structures and Systems: Business models, incentives, and practices
  • User Resilience: Civic discourse and media literacy
  • Government Leadership: Oversight and action

The commission is amongst a handful of best in class think tanks and academic institutions taking a leading role in shaping a broad, policy-driven response to mis- and disinformation, including the Center for Humane Technology, the Institute for Rebooting Social Media at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, The Stanford Internet Observatory, and the Technology and Social Change Research Project at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

Recent positive efforts to improve the information ecosystem include Facebook’s recent removal of detailed ad targeting options and The Filter Bubble Transparency Act pending in Congress and the awarding of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Philipina journalist Maria Ressa (founder of Philippine news site Rappler) Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov (editor-in-chief of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta), both of whom speak truth to power in autocratic countries and have taken up the disinformation crisis as activists.

The Commission Knowledge Center

The Aspen Institute has put together a remarkable resource for research on mis- and disinformation, which includes over 500 documents that have been reviewed by the commission staff for the report. We will be making a point of reviewing these studies and reports and will surface for further analysis of those resources we think will be of interest to the OODA Loop membership.

According to the The Knowledge Center website, “to support the commissioners, Aspen staff identified areas of focus that provide background on and context to information disorder. Each section below includes a list of selected experts and relevant readings so that the public may follow along with the Commission on Information Disorder’s work.”

The Knowledge Center is organized into the following exhaustive sections:

  • The Foundations of Disinformation and Misinformation
  • Regulation Models from Other Parts of the World
  • First Amendment and Section 230
  • Cognitive Science and Behavioral Economics
  • Platform Response and Accountability
  • The Intersection of Disinformation and Marginalized Communities
  • Cults, Conspiracy Theories, and Thwarting Online Radicalization
  • The Decline of Trust in Institutions
  • Crisis in Local News and Media
  • Political Polarization and Disinformation
  • Brands, the Commercial Sector and Disinformation
  • Nation-State Threats
  • Emerging Disinformation Threats
  • Civic Education and Media Literacy

Further Resources:

A direct link to the Commission’s Interim Report: Aspen Commission_Interim-Report

Aspen Digital’s Commission on Information Disorder Report – The Knowledge Center

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Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.