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Elections & Democracy, Free Expression

Helping Election Officials Combat Election Misinformation: A Course Developed by CDT and CTCL

Misinformation and disinformation can spread faster than ever before, posing threats to democracies across the world. Although such threats can come in many forms, CDT has partnered with the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to address one salient type of misinformation: inaccurate information about election procedures, which may have a harmful voter-suppressive effect.

In keeping with CTCL’s goal to “help election officials adopt the tools and skills necessary to meet the changing needs of today’s public,” CTCL has organized a number of useful courses for election officials. This summer, we partnered with CTCL to develop a new course, “Combating Election Misinformation.” Election misinformation poses a serious threat to next month’s general election, and we hope that this course will help election officials identify and respond to misinformation, building voters’ trust in election integrity. Election officials are in a unique position to detect and counter voter suppression misinformation, but they must first be equipped with the necessary skills and information.

The goals of the course were to impart terminology and concepts related to information operations, help participants identify different forms of misinformation, and help them respond with a defensive communications strategy. We encouraged participants to use the hashtag #TrustedInfo2020, which is a popular channel for election officials to share accurate information.

We delivered the course in July to dozens of election officials across the country; you can view the slides here. CTCL also produced a webinar participant guide summarizing the course, and an election official’s checklist for combating influence operations. The course will soon be available in a format suitable for at-your-own pace learning.

Emma Llansó, Director of CDT’s Free Expression Project developed and presented CDT’s contribution to the course. CDT’s work advocating for free expression on the internet is connected to election misinformation; the same protections that enable free speech on the internet also enable social media companies to fight misinformation. CDT is currently suing the Trump administration to halt its unconstitutional effort to chill social media companies’ ability to label or remove falsehoods about election procedures, including those frequently repeated by the President himself.

In the past, we have teamed up with CTCL to contribute to courses on cybersecurity and post-election audits. We hope that this latest course will give election officials an additional set of tools to make sure that elections continue to become more secure, fair, and trusted.

You can see more about CDT’s efforts to shore up democracy in the lead up to the elections on our Election Security page.

Watch our latest short video detailing what mis- & disinformation is, and how it impacts elections, targets marginalized communities, and engages in voter suppression.