Our Work

Disinformation Toolkit: Letter from Our CEO

Disinformation Toolkit
Letter from Our CEO

Download complete Disinformation Toolkit as PDF

On behalf lnterAction’s member organizations, we are pleased to present this resource on online disinformation. This report captures insights from on-the-ground experience responding to disinformation attacks such as those that we have seen abruptly disrupt relief efforts of the White Helmets in Syria, or those that have a longer-term, more sustained effects, as we have seen play a role in the evolving humanitarian crisis affecting the Rohingya in Myanmar. This resource provides suggested entry points to investigate specific areas where our members believe leaders of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can better assess, and prepare their organizations for online disinformation. It provides practical tips for how organization leaders, as well as communications and security experts, can increase their preparedness.  

Online disinformation entered the public consciousness in the United States after the 2016 presidential elections, but is now a threat we anticipate will affect our sector’s work in the months and years to come. Although this problem has long been an issue for our community, the nature of these trends and behaviors—and the rapid rate at which they can manufacture dissent about assistance internationally, or sow confusion about the communities our members support—is new and worrisome. We need to respond swiftly and strategically as a community of practitioners. 

Indeed, understanding how information can be weaponized and ultimately harm our work is critical for the humanitarian and international development sectors. Our members serve the most vulnerable populations in challenging environments, whether due to evolving politics or a crisis. Many of the communities our members support live in information vacuums, where credible and critical information is either unavailable or difficult to access. The spread of false information with the intent to manipulate, or harm, can mean the difference between life or death in these environments. We believe supporting our members to work with each other to identify and push back on harmful behaviors and trends related to online information will decrease our sector’s vulnerability to false information and propaganda designed to divide communities or cause violence. 

To tackle this new threat, NGOs in the development and humanitarian sectors must adapt. Critical to this adaptation is thinking about the functions of our communications staff and the range of tools our security advisors use. Increasing these capacities will promote conversations that will allow our organizations to better respond to information threats and challenges. It is also essential for our sector to work more closely in partnership with others studying digital security, digital literacy, researchers, and private sector solutions that address some of the trends and behaviors discussed in this report. 

As the largest alliance of U.S.-based nonprofits that work around the world, we believe it is critical to raise awareness about the evolving threat of online disinformation. Whether our members are providing emergency assistance to people fleeing conflicts, promoting democratic governance in places with evolving institutions and civil society, or promoting peace as faith-based or faith-founded organizations, we are all united by our shared mission of making the world a more peaceful and prosperous place. Confronting this new challenge is indeed critical to this mission and worthy of our time and resources. 

We hope this report begins a critical dialogue within our community about the scale of the problem we face concerning online disinformation, and, more importantly, what we can do to protect ourselves against it. As a community, we remain committed to leveraging the knowledge, expertise, and private resources from the NGO community to build stronger defenses against bad actors and abuse of online platforms that provide critical information to members and our beneficiary communities. Please view lnterAction’s website for more resources at www.interaction.org. lf you would like further information about these papers, please contact lnterAction at 202.667.8227.  

Samuel A. Worthington
CEO, InterAction