“New Group Joins the Political Fight Over Disinformation Online”

N.Y. Times reports on the formation of American Sunlight Project by Nina Jankowicz and Carlos Álvarez-Aranyos:

“The inception of the group, the American Sunlight Project, reflects how divisive the issue of identifying and combating disinformation has become as the 2024 presidential election approaches. It also represents a tacit admission that the informal networks formed at major universities and research organizations to address the explosion of disinformation online have failed to mount a substantial defense against a campaign, waged largely on the right, depicting their work as part of an effort to silence conservatives.

“Taking place in the courts, in conservative media and on the Republican-led House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, the campaign has largely succeeded in eviscerating efforts to monitor disinformation, especially around the integrity of the American election system. …

“Many experts have warned that the problem of false or misleading content is only going to increase with the advent of artificial intelligence.

““Disinformation will remain an issue as long as the strategic gains of engaging in it, promoting it and profiting from it outweigh consequences for spreading it,” Common Cause, the nonpartisan public interest group, wrote in a report published last week that warned of a new wave of disinformation around this year’s vote. …

“The American Sunlight Project has been established as a nonprofit under the section of the Internal Revenue Code that allows it greater leeway to lobby than tax-exempt charities known as 501(c)(3)s. It also does not have to disclose its donors, which Ms. Jankowicz declined to do, though she said the project had initial commitments of $1 million in donations.

“The budget pales in comparison with those behind the counteroffensive like America First Legal, the Trump-aligned group that, with a war chest in the tens of millions of dollars, has sued researchers at Stanford and the University of Washington over their collaboration with government officials to combat misinformation about voting and Covid-19.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon in a federal lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana accusing government agencies of using the researchers as proxies to pressure social media platforms to take down or restrict the reach of accounts.”

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