Misinformation spreading on social media has become a fact of life: fueling polarization and hate, driving down trust in institutions, amplifying fringe science and conspiracies, and inciting violence. Every political and social issue is now impacted by the threat of false and misleading claims that can confuse and radicalize the public.
There is no silver bullet to solve this problem. Moderation and fact-checking alone can’t stop the tidal wave of bad information circulating online, and even though Congressional regulation would be unlikely to turn the tide completely.
Instead of waiting for platforms and legislators to act, we must build capacity within our communities to establish resilience to the impact of misinformation now. We must cultivate a shared sense of civic responsibility for understanding and identifying these harmful and misleading messages.
The Civic Listening Corps (CLC) is a civic engagement program created by the Algorithmic Transparency Institute (ATI). The CLC is a volunteer network of individuals trained to monitor for, critically evaluate, and report misinformation on diverse topics central to our civic life: voting, elections, public health, civil rights, and other important issues.
CLC participation achieves two complementary goals: teaching individuals how to be more resilient to misinformation within their community and gathering and aggregating insights to inform your organization’s communications to power a real-time response.
How does the CLC work?
The Civic Listening Corps is powered by volunteers who commit their time to understand and address misinformation.
Register to volunteer. Volunteers can easily sign up to join the Civic Listening Corps here.
Attend an onboarding training. Volunteers are invited to participate in an onboarding training session led by ATI’s Volunteer Coordinator where they get an introduction to the challenges of misinformation, an overview of how civic listening works, and resources and next steps to begin social media monitoring.
Join the CLC Slack channel. After participating in an onboarding session, volunteers are added to the CLC Slack workspace and can begin signing up for weekly monitoring shifts.
Signup for a shift. Every week, ATI’s Volunteer Coordinator provides a list of priority topics that volunteers will monitor during each shift:
- Priority topics are also outlined each week based on partnering organization focus areas and analyst data provided by ATI.
- At the end of each shift, volunteers get a summary of their monitoring output and info on upcoming shifts.
- Volunteers are invited to sign up for weekly monitoring shifts around key events or at regularly scheduled times.
- Volunteers are also invited to monitor for misinformation at any time they wish using our tools.
Monitor content. Volunteers monitor for content matching the priorities set by ATI within their own social media feeds or via the custom monitoring dashboards in Junkipedia.
- Volunteers submit and annotate examples of problematic content to Junkipedia tiplines via web form, SMS, or email.
- Volunteers can share examples they find to ask for feedback within the CLC Slack channel.
- If volunteers encounter problematic messages that require platform notification (eg. content that violates platform policies) OR content that requires immediate attention (legal or otherwise) they can share and seek advice from the volunteer coordinator.
Gain insights. Every two weeks, volunteers receive a report detailing the key insights gathered by the CLC coalition, as well as advice on how to address new and emerging threats.
Organizations can register to partner with ATI to join the campaign to combat misinformation. Partnering with ATI in the Civic Listening Corps campaign provides:
Overview introduction with ATI. The ATI partnership team will give your organization an introduction to the Civic Listening Corps and the tools ATI provides, and seek to learn about your challenges and goals for addressing misinformation in your community.
Custom reporting and data analysis tools. ATI will help your organization set up reporting tiplines that empower your community members to submit examples of misinformation. You can use a tip review dashboard to help your organization understand the key insights generated from your volunteer membership and power your response efforts to combat misinformation.
Training and resources. ATI can train your organization and volunteers about misinformation, reporting, and using technical tools to address the challenges of misinformation. ATI can also provide the promotional assets necessary to encourage volunteer recruitment and misinformation reporting.
Examples of these immediate outputs are:
How does the CLC help solve the problem?
Creating resilience to misinformation helps ensure that not just today’s threats are neutralized, but tomorrow’s as well. By engaging a broad and diverse collection of organizations and communities and creating pipelines to share data and insights between them, a more coherent situational awareness is formed.
By evaluating problematic content during monitoring shifts, volunteers collect data that gets elevated to CLC partnering organizations. This information can be used to dispel narratives on social media, call out the bad actors online, report false and misleading content to platforms to have the content taken down, and create pressure for platforms to hold repeat offenders accountable.
In addition, collecting evidence of misinformation helps organizations create communication strategies that inform their community and local policymakers on emerging narratives and trends that demand response.
Examples of these immediate outputs are:
- Earned media content
- Talking points for speaking engagements
- Research tools for advocacy and academic organizations
- Public and executive briefings
How does the CLC benefit my organization?
Organizations that partner with the CLC acquire real-time actionable insights into misinformation to improve situational awareness to power mitigation strategies that match your mission
CLC members will identify and report problematic content that spreads across communities, languages, and geographies on a daily basis. This continuous feed of data provides situational awareness to all the CLC partner organizations, as well as researchers working to address problematic content.
The insights produced will inform and enable a range of actions to mitigate impacts.
- Advocacy organizations use daily and weekly insights to inform content production and targeting to produce pre-bunks and inoculation messages shared via SMS, email, advertising, social media influencers, and earned media.
- Trusted flaggers easily escalate content that violates platform policies to improve rapid response content moderation.
- Community engagement through training and direct outreach is adapted in response to specific trends and themes identified to provide effective responses when field operatives encounter known problematic narratives.
How does the CLC benefit volunteers?
The Civic Listening Corps provides individuals with training and access to social monitoring tools that build their skills in tracking misinformation online. Members of the CLC range in areas of expertise and being able to collaborate with this network expands their experience and knowledge in all forms of misinformation.
Volunteers will build their individual resilience to misinformation while simultaneously creating the same resilience for a wider community.
The technical training in the Junkipedia platform also builds expertise in using online monitoring tools across social platforms.
What issues do we cover?
ATI encourages members to report any problematic content that has the potential to cause harm across a number of social and civic topics. Because disinformation impacts every aspect of our life, we coordinate with stakeholders across advocacy, academia, and journalism to ensure insights are shared and accessible.
We are actively monitoring for problematic narratives concerning:
- Elections and democracy issues
- Public Health
- Civil rights
- International Conflict
Our research and analyst team rely on the expert knowledge provided by our partnerships to inform our monitoring priorities-including setting up partner-inspired shifts that focus exclusively on the issues your organization needs to address.
How does my organization benefit from participating?
No single entity can solve the threat of disinformation alone. Instead, your collective and active participation in understanding and identifying harmful content will allow your organization to assess relevant narratives that are infiltrating your community. Other organizations like yours are already participating and actively producing messages to combat misleading content digitally and in the field, and your engagement and expertise are paramount to maximizing these efforts.
What does engagement look like?
We encourage members to commit to at least one 2-hour guided shift per week. ATI staff will be available during these hours to answer any questions or tech-related issues.
Do I need to hire new staff to run this program?
There is no need to hire new staff! Most organizations have a few of their staff assigned to perform this role.
What is the cost of training and program participation?
Our training curriculum and resources are free of charge, as well as obtaining access to our Junkipedia platform.
Is this political?
While we do cover election protection and political messages in our monitoring we do so with an exclusively non-partisan lens… This program is focused on the spread of misinformation across the entire political spectrum and is not focused on being for or against any party or candidate. In addition, many aspects of misinformation monitoring extend beyond domestic politics including health misinformation, climate change, and disasters and conflicts.
Is there a cost?
No. There is no charge to participate in or partner with the Civic Listening Corps. This program is designed to unify communities in the effort to address misinformation by removing obstacles and increasing access to the knowledge and tools necessary to address the problem.