How to Combat Misinformation and Disinformation: Lessons from a Social Media Trust and Safety Expert

What I learned by managing cross-functional safety programs at social media platforms.

Rebecca Scott Thein on April 10, 2024

In the dynamic domain of information integrity, the lessons learned and alliances forged during crises form the bedrock upon which the next chapter of digital responsibility is built. The urgency to find innovative solutions was recently underscored by the World Economic Forum‘s declaration of misinformation and disinformation as the top global risk in 2024. 

This is a deeply personal journey for me, one that began on Feb 24, 2022, as I welcomed my second child into the world amidst the shocking news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At that time, I managed cross-functional programs at a large social media platform, focusing on combating harmful content. The emergence of crisis misinformation and disinformation as a new threat vector prompted swift action. Leveraging a risk framework tool, we implemented the crisis misinformation policy in May 2022, mitigating the impacts of severe harm by assessing risks and creating intervention strategies.

Blackbird.AI’s Rebecca Scott Thein spoke about social media trust and safety best practices at the All Tech Is Human event in New York City.

In the tumultuous aftermath of crises, determining the veracity of online information becomes exceptionally challenging. Factors such as increased content volume, engagement and trend rates, operational deficiencies, and lacking local context necessitate implementing strategic and multisectoral solutions. The reliance on partnerships, both new and old, became paramount. Verification from credible sources, collaboration with conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organizations, and journalists guided interventions to promote information integrity. This collaborative effort involved not only the identification and mitigation of harmful narratives but also the development of product interventions to uplift relevant, credible content.

Fast forward to 2024, a year widely anticipated as the year of many elections, only to find policies surrounding misinformation and disinformation, my role, and the uncertainty of the overall function within trust and safety across tech. Layoffs and shifting from transparency to a more restrictive ecosystem through restricting API access posed challenges for organizations committed to detecting harmful narratives. Despite these setbacks, the trust and safety industry demonstrated resilience through strengthened partnerships, professional associations – All Tech is Human, for example – and think tanks.

Recently I participated in a panel discussion on mitigating misinformation and disinformation, representing Blackbird.AI. The event, co-hosted by All Tech Is Human and the Consulate General of Finland in New York, on Strengthening the Information Ecosystem underscored the need for global coalitions in the fight against narrative warfare. With misinformation affecting us all, understanding terms of use, policies, and regulations was emphasized, moving beyond politicization to recognize misinformation as a form of narrative warfare. The evolving threat landscape demands strategies against ‘narrative attacks’ as companies enact their annual business plans and prepare for new risks. New technologies are being developed and deployed at astonishing rates.

Evidence-based policy, resetting conditions for the trust and safety industry, and integrating digital literacy into core educational requirements were key discussion points. The panel highlighted the global nature of the issue, advocating for the inclusivity of the global majority and more diverse representation within these multi-sectoral conversations. As elections have started and many more are on the horizon, the panel stressed the importance of cybersecurity and the fundamental right of civic integrity in the information ecosystem.

The ramifications of misinformation and disinformation campaigns are far-reaching and impactful. Regardless of their origins or targets, these campaigns affect us all, with their extent often difficult to predict and measure. Misleading narratives, once propagated, can ignite social movements and unrest by leveraging our digital identities, which encompass both personal and corporate values. These campaigns can significantly disrupt an organization’s operations, tarnish its reputation, and undermine its bottom line. The social internet can serve as a potent battleground, where collective movements around propagated falsehoods can leave organizations struggling to respond effectively due to limited visibility and influence. Therefore, organizations must carve out space to take decisive action promptly. By fostering multi-sectoral partnerships, acknowledging misinformation as a security threat, and deploying technical solutions designed to detect and mitigate harms, organizations can proactively safeguard consumer trust, protect brand reputation, and maintain positive employee relations while better protecting themselves and their stakeholders from the perils of narrative warfare.

It was an honor to represent Blackbird.AI and discuss how we use AI to protect against these threats. Our commitment to protecting organizations from narrative attacks created by misinformation and disinformation led to the development of our AI-driven narrative intelligence platform called ConstellationNarrative Feed, and Compass by Blackbird.AI.‍ 

To learn more about how Blackbird.AI can help you in these situations, contact us here.

About Blackbird.AI

BLACKBIRD.AI protects organizations from narrative attacks created by misinformation and disinformation that cause financial and reputational harm. Powered by our AI-driven proprietary technology, including the Constellation narrative intelligence platform, RAV3N Risk LMM, Narrative Feed, and our RAV3N Narrative Intelligence and Research Team, Blackbird.AI provides a disruptive shift in how organizations can protect themselves from what the World Economic Forum called the #1 global risk in 2024.

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