Digital Discourse for a Thriving Democracy and Resilient Communities

Image Credit: Mike Austin/CCBY-NC-ND

Digital Discourse for a Thriving Democracy and Resilient Communities
Despite the unprecedented power of the internet to connect and inform people, social media and networked technologies are being leveraged to amplify disinformation – deliberately misleading or false information – that harms our society, democracy, and everyday lives.

Disinformation, misinformation, and other forms of media manipulation shape harmful narratives that mislead and polarize the public, sow disruption, and exacerbate distrust in institutions. They undermine elections, public health, national security, business, and institutions such as science, journalism, and government. Deception and manipulation of news and information pre-date the internet – but its acceleration, reach and scale are greater on the web.

Recent polls show that 72% of Americans, believe disinformation is a threat to democracy and 74% of Americans worry about false information or fake news being used as a weapon. Research shows that false news travels six times faster than truthful news on social media.

Bad actors target people and communities based on their race, gender, age, politics, or other demographics to influence mindsets and behaviors. Platforms, government, and media feed the cycle of disinformation and division for profit, votes, and clicks, while vulnerable audiences consume it. The rise in hyper-partisan reporting and local news deserts further fuel the problem. Emergent artificial intelligence technologies such as “deepfakes” and ephemeral content such as livestreams, “stories”, and audio chats make it harder to detect and address disinformation.

The causes of digital disinformation are complex to disentangle, and solutions are difficult to scale due to ideological and sectoral differences. Disinformation also has offline, historical, and structural roots that further convolute the problem.

That is why the upcoming Convergence Dialogue on Digital Discourse for a Thriving Democracy and Resilient Communities, convened from Convergence’s Bay Area CA hub, will bring together leaders and experts of diverse sectors, ideologies, and communities for an intense, year-long, facilitated Dialogue. They will explore people-centered solutions that reduce disinformation and its impact, promote an informed society, and strengthen civic and democratic discourse. Together, participants will build trust, learn to understand each other’s perspectives and values, and arrive at new, consensus solutions that move America past the places the issue has been “stuck” by divisiveness or failure to coordinate.

Currently in the Assessment Phase, Convergence has so far conducted interviews with about 100 stakeholders who are coalescing around digital information as a supply and demand issue. We use these insights to develop a deeply informed understanding of the challenges involved in taking on the issue and areas where there is the potential to forge actionable consensus-based solutions. Levers for intervention could include private action, policy, education, research, community engagement and public programming.

“Convergence is excited to connect our national dialogue to other conversations with many more people across the country, because solving America’s toughest common challenges means enlisting not only national leaders and experts – but also local leaders and everyday citizens,” said Convergence CEO David Eisner. “We’re especially excited to undertake this initiative through well-crafted partnerships with Civic Genius, More in Common and Interfaith Youth Core – all leading organizations that are driving innovation, excellence and reach across the bridging field.”

Please check out our partners who are prototyping these conversations.

Civic Genius, with deep expertise in convening diverse local and grassroots discussions, will anchor the strategy to weave the national Convergence Dialogue together with broader deliberative conversations across the country. Civic Genius will bring together thousands in a series of deliberative conversations across political, ideological, sectoral and other divides in multiple cities as well as in virtual grassroots venues. Look for ongoing invitations for Convergence stakeholders to sign up for these discussions.

More in Common has vast experience and a unique reputation for researching and reporting on the effectiveness of practices to reduce enmity and solve common problems across divides in dozens of strife-challenged countries around the world. Integral to the partnership, More in Common will evaluate whether and how the partnership fosters stronger civic outcomes among participants of all backgrounds. These learnings will inform a broad universe of policymakers, corporate leaders, and civil society organizations that are pursuing consensus solutions to key national issues.

Interfaith America will engage the faith community along a parallel set of dialogues examining how digital disinformation impacts the faith-based community. Interfaith America will support the national dialogue by convening religious leaders and congregants to offer input into and feedback and refinement of consensus proposals. Some religious leaders may also become key stakeholders in the pathway to implement consensus proposals.

If you value collaborative problem-solving and dialogue across differences and are committed to driving research-based action and sustainable impact, we invite you to partner with us in this work.

For more information about the project, please contact:

Monika Glowacki, Director, Convergence Dialogue on Digital Discourse for a Thriving Democracy and Resilient Communities

To invest in this project, please contact:

Anjali Singh Code, Chief Development Officer