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Black scholars band together to fight "cultural disinformation" on social media

How to detect misinformation and disinformation
Understanding the differences between misinformation and disinformation, and how QAnon is spreading both online 05:41

A group of U.S. Black scholars, activists and writers has launched a new project to combat misleading information online around voting, reparations and immigration, supporters announced Friday.

The National Black Cultural Information Trust seeks to counter trolls on Twitter and other social media platforms that attempt to discourage Black voters from participating in elections or seek to turn Black voters against other communities of color, such as Hispanics or Asian Americans. Teach-ins, webinars, workshops and town hall discussions will be hosted by the NBCIT to strengthen public awareness, according to the release.

A CBS Battleground Tracker poll from August shows that 90% of Black likely voters nationwide plan to cast their ballot for Democrat Joe Biden. 

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, an African American activist and scholar and the project's founder, said some dubious accounts behind the #ADOS movement — which stands for American Descendants of Slavery — on social media have urged Black voters to skip the presidential election.

Some accounts also use the movement's hashtag to enflame supposed divisions between African Americans and Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, Aiwuyor said. Most recently, some social media users have used #ADOS to blame Somali immigrants in Minneapolis for the May 2020 death of George Floyd rather than Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with killing him.

"The disinformation used to target Black communities is cultural," said Aiwuyor. "It's cultural disinformation, which uses cultural issues to infuse false information and cause confusion."

Aiwuyor is a former communications director for the National Fair Housing Alliance who has helped file racial discrimination lawsuits against Facebook, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank. 

Aiwuyor said some social media accounts are using "digital Blackface" — posing as Black users when they aren't — or resurrecting old accounts that haven't tweeted in four years to spread false information about where to vote and where candidates stand on issues.

"Manipulated and influenced"

"It's critical to understand how misinformation and disinformation affects the Black community specifically concerning how cultural issues are used by bad actors to infuse false information," Aiwuyor said in a statement. "We're being manipulated and influenced, not just concerning social issues, but also concerning how we think about our lives, our cultures, and ourselves." 

Members of the National Black Cultural Information Trust plan to monitor social media posts and flag those spreading misleading and fake stories. They plan to use crowdsourcing, as well as website tools that show if accounts have troll-like behavior, and scholars on standby to counter any claims about slavery or voting.

Through its website, the project will direct users to discussions and stories around Black voting and reparation supporters.

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