How First Draft fought for the truth, one text at a time.
First Draft is a nonprofit consortium dedicated to combatting misinformation
First Draft, a nonprofit coalition founded in 2015, empowers people around the world to face up to the growing challenges of misinformation. Catering to teachers, health communicators, and communities of all kinds, First Draft aims to equip our society with the necessary tools to seek out truth.
As summer turned to fall and the 2020 US election grew near, the First Draft team noticed an increasing quantity of misinformation targeting both English and Spanish speaking communities in the US. Voters were met daily with an overwhelming amount of noise on every TV channel and social media platform, yet lacked the tools necessary to sort fact from fiction. Although the First Draft team certainly wasn’t new to creating educational misinformation resources, the pandemic presented a new challenge. With most Americans working from home, First Draft would have to get creative to make a course stand out from the monotony of Zoom calls and media browsing.
My bosses and I started to think, how do we keep training people and giving them tools to understand how to spot and talk about mis- and disinformation that doesn't ‘Zoom them out?’
When Laura Garcia, First Draft’s training and support manager, stumbled across Arist on Twitter, things began to click. By utilizing text message rather than video learning, her team could avoid Zoom burnout but still keep things digital. Excited by the challenge of condensing course information into text format while reaching underserved communities, Garcia began designing a course to deliver impactful tools without demanding much of a time commitment.
We thought [designing an Arist course] was an incredible pedagogical challenge. And that if we got it right, it could be a really powerful way of teaching.
Putting the course together
Through Arist, Garcia and her team created Protection from Deception, a two week text message course designed to teach communities how to protect themselves from misinformation. The course began by covering the basics of how false information is presented, before teaching tangible fact checking skills, such as how to reverse image search or verify a digital account’s identity. Garcia’s team focused on keeping the course language relatable and conversational, in order to allow learners to share these new skills within their own social circle.
I was particularly excited about the prospect of being able to teach with emojis, because they are so innate to the culture of the internet and how we talk to each other across screens, which is where a lot of disinformation spreads. It just felt like an incredible fit.
A meaningful impact
Despite launching shortly before the election, Protection from Deception reached nearly 2,000 learners. By catering to both English and Spanish speakers, First Draft was able to deliver their course to the voters who needed it most, who responded with overwhelming enthusiasm. “We got some really nice and borderline heartbreaking feedback,” Garcia recalls. This year, First Draft plans to use Arist to access communities around the world, including those with lower internet access, through WhatsApp, Messenger and SMS based courses.
“We're currently working on a version of the course for Asia-Pacific, which is really exciting. But the possibilities are endless, right?”