Dear MoveOn member,
During each election cycle, MoveOn makes a big bet on a program that we believe will help win the election—combining people power and cutting-edge innovation to meet the political moment. And in 2020, our big bet has turned some members of MoveOn's staff into characters in their very own spy thriller—because this year we are hoping to invest in an ambitious and cutting-edge program to combat disinformation and online voter suppression.
Disinformation is false information deliberately spread in order to influence public opinion.1 Remember the Facebook ads in 2016 that spread the blatant lie that Democrats could vote from home via text message? Or viral fearmongering lies that millions of noncitizens were voting in the election? Or ads from the Trump campaign targeting Black voters in Florida, saying, "Hillary Thinks African Americans Are Super Predators"?2 Those were disinformation campaigns explicitly designed to suppress Democratic voter turnout and help Donald Trump win—and they worked.3
In 2016, Trump ran an unprecedented digital ad campaign that was fueled largely by disinformation.4 And that, coupled with disinformation campaigns from foreign governments like Russia and domestic groups with a vested interest in Trump's victory, helped lead him to victory.
This time around, those campaigns are even more sophisticated—which is why MoveOn is investing big in working to stop in their tracks disinformation campaigns meant to suppress Democratic votes (particularly from young people and people of color) and propel Trump to a second term.
But here's the problem: These disinformation campaigns are primarily spread on social media, and corporations like Facebook have a vested interest in doing nothing to stop them, because these campaigns make hundreds of millions of dollars for the platform.5 That's where we come in.
If we can fully fund our program, our staff of digital sleuths will be tracking disinformation networks online, following the threads to their source, exposing their impact, and demanding that social media platforms like Facebook take them down. But to do it, we will need a steady stream of funding for the rest of the year.
Mar, will you join our sleuthing squad and help dismantle the disinformation networks working to re-elect Trump by chipping in $5 a month?
Digital disinformation and voter suppression is A LOT to tackle, which is why we are taking a multi-pronged approach. Here is just some of what MoveOn is planning to do:
- Run mobile billboards targeting Facebook and its employees. Starting after Super Tuesday, these billboards will run between Mark Zuckerberg's neighborhood in San Francisco and Facebook's Bay Area offices, demanding that Facebook change its ad policy to stop profiting from ads from political candidates that openly spread lies and disinformation.
- Track down and take down right-wing networks that are working to spread lies, demobilize and intimidate Democratic voters, and make it harder to vote. MoveOn has hired an investigations team that is working behind the scenes to track disinformation networks targeting Democratic voters to demobilize and intimidate them. When we find those networks, we will mobilize to force Facebook to remove them, which will also get rid of most of the content they shared and prevent other voters from being exposed to it.
- Live-monitor disinformation being spread during the primaries and especially during key political moments, with a plan to do this for the general election as well. On the day of the Iowa caucuses, right-wing social media began spreading conspiracy theories about the Iowa voter rolls, which the Iowa secretary of state said was meant to "disenfranchise Iowa voters."6 During each primary contest, our research team is live-monitoring the spread of disinformation to help better track the networks behind these lies.
- Run pressure campaigns to demand that Facebook and other social media companies take action. Facebook's current policy expressly allows political candidates like Trump to run blatantly false ads, like the "Super Predators" ad he ran in 2016 to suppress the Black vote. And Facebook has shifted the responsibility for identifying and stopping disinformation from other state and nonstate actors to third parties and individual users. But it cannot continue to skirt its responsibility for providing a platform for these lies to spread.
Will you help us fully fund this campaign throughout 2020 so we ensure that Trump is not propelled to another victory through nefarious, racist, and xenophobic disinformation campaigns? Just chip in $5 a month.
Here's the reality: A leaked internal document from Facebook quoted an employee stating that Trump "got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I've ever seen from any advertiser," and the bulk of that campaign was powered by disinformation.7
That was in 2016, when Trump was trailing behind the Democrats in fundraising and was working with a small team of political amateurs. This year, Trump is outspending nearly all of the Democratic candidates and running far more Facebook ads than he ran in 2016.8
And it's not just his campaign; it's the vast network of right-wing disinformation accounts and sites that help to propel dangerous, violent, racist fake news and conspiracy theories that turn into real, quantifiable impact at the voting booth.
That is what we are up against, and the stakes could not be higher.
We must do everything we can to stop Trump from stealing an election like this. Please, Mar, will you help us put a stop to disinformation by chipping in $5 a month?
Thanks for all you do.
–Jenn, Mohammad, Seth, Kelly, and the rest of the team
1. "Disinformation," Merriam-Webster, accessed February 19, 2020
2. "Trump's 'Voter Suppression Operation' Targets Black Voters," The Atlantic, October 27, 2016
3. "Four things to know about Russia's 2016 misinformation campaign," Politifact, April 4, 2017
4. "The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President," The Atlantic, February 10, 2020
5. "Facebook Says It Won't Back Down From Allowing Lies in Political Ads," The New York Times, January 9, 2020
6. "Rightwing groups spread false information about voter rolls hours before Iowa caucuses," The Guardian, February 3, 2020
7. "Facebook Says It Won't Back Down From Allowing Lies in Political Ads," The New York Times, January 9, 2020
8. "One year inside Trump's monumental Facebook campaign," The Guardian, January 29, 2020
Want to support our work? The MoveOn community will work every moment, day by day and year by year, to resist Trump's agenda, contain the damage, defeat hate with love, and begin the process of swinging the nation's pendulum back toward sanity, decency, and the kind of future that we must never give up on. And to do it we need your ongoing support, now more than ever. Will you stand with us?
PAID FOR BY MOVEON
This email was sent to Mar Alfaro on February 25, 2020. To change your email address or update your contact info, click here. If you'd like to receive less frequent emails from MoveOn, you can click here. To remove yourself from this list, click here.