Lefty veterans group launches campaign to combat disinformation

Source: Politico | April 7, 2021 | Alexandra S. Levine

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SCOOP: VETS ARE GETTING RADICALIZED ONLINE. THIS PAC PLANS TO STOP IT — Liberal advocacy group VoteVets is launching a $10 million campaign today to combat disinformation targeting and radicalizing veterans online. As part of the push, VoteVets — a PAC that helps Democratic vets get elected — is starting a three-month study to identify which groups of veterans are most susceptible to disinformation on topics like Covid-19 vaccines and political conspiracy theories. The group will also launch a hub to track and respond to disinformation in real-time.

— Two crucial battlefronts: The group’s chair told Cristiano that the radicalization issue has only gained urgency since the Jan. 6 riots, because many military veterans were among those who stormed the Capitol. “A large percentage of the folks there [on Jan. 6] were veterans who had been sent poor information,” said Jon Soltz, an Army veteran himself. And the group is wary that disinformation targeting veterans could also make it harder to get the community more fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Soltz said.

— Nipping it in the bud: Part of their aim, group leaders said, is to identify at-risk veterans before they have been exposed to disinformation and to provide them with relevant facts, media literacy training and other tools to help ward off viral falsehoods. “We’ll have some rapid response staff [and] are hoping to hire two to three new members dedicated to researching current conspiracy theories in the veteran space and providing real-time fact checking,” said senior adviser Kate Hoit.

— Entering the tech policy fray on Capitol Hill: As part of the campaign, the group also plans to get active in calling for social media companies to take greater accountability for disinformation on their platforms and for Congress to consider legislative remedies, including potentially revamping Section 230. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have sounded the alarm about disinformation targeting vets in recent years, but much of the focus has been on foreign campaigns. Soltz said both domestic and foreign attempts to mislead vets must be addressed.

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