Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a central role in addressing disinformation's growing impact on democracy. Given the vast scope of the global disinformation challenge, the landscape for CSOs working in this space has evolved rapidly in recent years. Established efforts to combat disinformation have incorporated the new challenges posed by social media into their agendas, while new initiatives have emerged to fill gaps in research, monitoring, and advocacy. The work of these organizations in the disinformation fight is critical for positively shaping policy making, improving platform responses, and enhancing citizen knowledge and engagement.
Yet, CSOs face ongoing challenges in this complex and fast-changing field. How has civil society grown in its understanding and response to the digital disinformation challenge and what should be done to further empower this work?
To acquire insights into these questions, this paper draws on two methods—a mapping exercise of civil society initiatives and a survey of leading CSOs working in this field. This approach reveals that CSOs bring a wide range of skill sets to the problem of digital disinformation. Some organizations focus on digital media literacy and education; others engage in advocacy and policy work. Another segment has developed expertise in fact-checking and verification. Other organizations have developed refined technical skills for extracting and analyzing data from social media platforms.
This research yielded several clear observations about the state of CSO responses to disinformation and, in turn, suggests several recommendations for paths forward.