Misinformation Solutions Forum

Much of the current discussion of misinformation as a societal concern has highlighted how much inaccurate information is available online or in news media. Yet what makes misinformation a particularly acute problem today is its ability to spread rapidly and pervasively—as people post false advertising or less than credible news stories on social media, highlight fabricated information in conversation with each other, or cite false information when addressing various audiences. Less well explored are the human behaviors and decisions that go into this sharing of misinformation—with a host of potential motivations at play that go beyond a simple lack of knowledge. Behavioral science offers a growing body of knowledge that can be leveraged to curb the sharing of misinformation and, on the other hand, encourage productive sharing and discussion about accurate information. Many other fields hold potential keys to solutions as well—including technology design, public health, journalism, education, health care, community organizing and social science.

On October 4, 2018, a Misinformation Solutions Forum was held at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., bringing together academic researchers, technology professionals, data scientists, journalists, educators, community leaders, funders and 12 graduate student fellows to explore six promising ideas for curbing the spread of misinformation.

A Call for Ideas

In March 2018, we issued an open call for ideas to be featured in the Misinformation Solutions Forum. The call sought interventions focused on reducing behaviors that lead to the spread of misinformation or encouraging behaviors that can lead to the minimization of its influence. Interventions with technological, educational, and/or community-based components were encouraged, as were projects involving science communication, public health and diverse populations. The submissions were judged through a blind review process by a diverse committee of expert judges with representatives from the Rita Allen Foundation, as well as external institutions such as the Democracy Fund, the National Institutes of Health, the Poynter Institute, First Draft and academic institutions.

The six finalist teams selected for participation in the Forum were as follows (listed alphabetically by sponsoring institution):

  • Digital Game Development – Claremont Graduate University (Kathy Pezdek, team lead), HitPoint Studios, and Legacy Games
  • Addressing the Appeal of Misinformation in Health News – Florida International University (Susan Jacobson, team lead) and Living Beyond Breast Cancer
  • Mind Over Chatter – Indiana University Kokomo (Mark Canada, team lead)
  • Go Above the Noise – KQED, Northern California Public Broadcasting (Randy Depew, team lead)
  • It Takes a Village – University of Florida Foundation (Amanda Sams Bradshaw, team lead) and Shands Hospital, University of Florida
  • “Let Me Fact-Check That for You” – Washington State University Foundation (Mike Caulfield, team lead), C-Colony Productions, and S. Waterman

The Forum provided an opportunity for the teams to further hone and develop their ideas with input from a variety of industry professionals, funders and experts. Following the forum, three winners were chosen by a combination of judges’ rankings and feedback from participants in the Misinformation Solutions Forum, recognizing the ideas with the most promise to positively shift the information-sharing landscape.

Winning Projects

The winners of the Misinformation Solution Prizes are:

  • Mind Over Chatter ($50,000): Indiana University Kokomo

Mind Over Chatter is an educational intervention for first-year college students that focuses on mindfulness training, aiming to reduce the effects of biases and empower students to be responsible researchers. The curriculum engages older students in instruction and also seeks to increase student retention among a largely rural, underserved population. It contains three components: initiation in skills and tools, protection against biases by learning about factors that make humans prone to misinformation, and strategies students can use to protect themselves from influences of misinformation.

  • Go Above the Noise ($25,000): KQED (San Francisco)

Building on the success of a KQED program to help teens develop media literacy skills, Go Above the Noise uses short-form activities where students read interactive blog articles and respond to questions, using evidence to back their claims. Students can interact with others across the country to develop media literacy and civic engagement skills. KQED also integrates youth into the editorial process for the program.

  • Let Me Fact Check that for You ($25,000): Washington State University

Let Me Fact Check that for You helps people verify and contextualize information using simple, teachable verification techniques. The service will allow people to paste in a URL that requires fact checking, answer a question or two, and produce a custom linkable infographic that will show the step-by-step process of checking a specific claim and website. The resulting link can then be shared—for example, as part of a dialogue on social media.

Each of the winning teams combines different types of expertise—including in education, media production, technology, behavioral science, and social science related to information sharing.

Read more here. 

Related Stories and Resources

Curbing the Spread of Misinformation
RTI Press | December 2018
Insights, innovations, and interpretations from the Misinformation Solutions Forum, edited by Brian G. Southwell and Vanessa Boudewyns

Projects to Reduce the Spread of Misinformation Awarded $100,000 by the Misinformation Solutions Forum
RTI International | November 14, 2018
Announcing the winners of the Misinformation Solutions Forum

The Measure of Everyday Life: Curbing the Spread of Misinformation (audio)
WNCU | November 7, 2018
On this special episode, The Measure of Everyday Life reports from the Misinformation Solutions Forum, an interdisciplinary workshop held in 2018 at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.

The Search for Solutions to Curb Misinformation
Rita Allen Foundation | April 9, 2018
A perspective and call to action from Elizabeth Good Christopherson, the Foundation’s President and Chief Executive Officer

Why We Lie to Ourselves and Others about Misinformation
Trust, Media and Democracy | March 28, 2018
A commentary by Brian Southwell, Program Director of the Science in the Public Sphere program at RTI International

Press Release: A Call for Ideas Seeks Solutions to Curb the Spread of Misinformation
March 26, 2018

Social Media, Political Polarization, and Political Disinformation: A Review of the Scientific Literature
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation | March 19, 2018

Science Magazine
March 9, 2018
Cover story highlights the research report “The spread of true and false news online;” also includes a Policy Forum piece on “The science of fake news,” focusing on the need for interdisciplinary research

Understanding and Addressing the Disinformation Ecosystem
First Draft | March 8, 2018
Takeaways from a December 2017 convening at the Annenberg School for Communication, including a paper on “Using Behavioral Theory to Curb Misinformation Sharing” by Brian Southwell and Vanessa Boudewyns of RTI International

Civic Science
Rita Allen Foundation | March 2018
An evolving collection of research, resources and perspectives on the intersection of science and civic life

A Field Guide to “Fake News” and Other Information Disorders
Public Data Lab and First Draft | January 8, 2018

The Persistence and Peril of Misinformation
American Scientist | November-December 2017
Brian Southwell, Emily Thorson and Laura Sheble outline challenges to battling falsehoods.

NAS Announces Awards for Building Capacity for Science Communication Partnerships
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine | July 14, 2017
Awards to support partnerships of science communication researchers and practitioners and facilitate collaborative projects on approaches to promoting vaccination and communicating science to policymakers

Knight Prototype Fund Awards $1 Million to 20 Projects to Improve the Flow of Accurate Information
Knight Foundation | June 22, 2017
Projects were selected from an open call for ideas from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation to address concerns about the spread of misinformation and produce ways to build trust in journalism.