Shutting down online #fakenews factories

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Got this email and image from Avaaz, subject line, “We’ve been hijacked”, that feels too important not to share.  Here’s my biggest takeaway from it:

During Brazil’s election, Avaaz ran an experiment — just six people were given basic training to investigate the propaganda networks, and they shut down online fake news factories that reached *16 million* people. Imagine what ten times as many could do!

Here’s more:

The internet was supposed to connect all of humanity like never before — beyond any boundaries, race or religion.

But the fascist forces that led the world into darkness 80 years ago are spreading their tentacles again, deploying vast armies of fake accounts to turn us against each other. To make us distrust, hate, even kill each other!

In India, innocent men and women were massacred after fake stories about them stealing children spread on WhatsApp like wildfire. A landmark study in Germany found the more people used Facebook, the more attacks on refugees. And a neo-fascist is Brazil’s new president after toxic lies about his opponents went viral on social media — until 89% of his voters believed them!

It’s an all-out propaganda war — not through the radios in our homes, but the smartphones in our pockets.

But there’s a way to stop this.

This is where the bit was about the experiment during the Brazil elections, cut and pasted above. The email contains an appeal for donations, any amount from $3 up.

With crunch elections in Europe, Canada, India and beyond just months away, we need to act fast.

Chip in now — if we raise enough, we’ll hire, train and deploy the most sophisticated teams of specialists to defend our democracies. Our grandparents said “Never again!” and now it’s on us to live up to their promise. If we don’t fight for the truth to prevail, no one will

The email ends:

Fear and anger bring out the worst in humanity. And those who want to drive us apart have found a powerful weapon in social media, where fake blogs can get more engagement than a BBC news story.

Avaazers have been fighting this from the start. We’ve pressured social media executives to act, advocated to lawmakers from Berlin to Brasilia, and investigated some of the world’s biggest disinformation networks. But it’s not enough. Europe and Canada have mainly resisted the far right until now, but this year’s elections could completely change that.

Our Brazil experiment showed how to stop it — catching fake stories early and reporting those who posted and spread them. But for this to work, we need to hire and train many more to investigate, infiltrate and break down these massive propaganda networks — and with key elections around the corner, we need to do it NOW!

The Avaaz movement is powered by the truth that more unites us than divides us. That unity is the trolls biggest fear — so chip in now to unleash it, and let’s launch this people-powered push to defend the truth, before it’s too late.

This is nothing less than a call to arms. To all of us. To fight for a world that is just too beautiful to be left in the hands of fascists and hate-mongers. And with social media becoming the internet, the central nervous system that connects all of humanity, it’s where we must win.

Avaaz is a 47-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 18 countries on 6 continents and operates in 17 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz’s biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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