The Issue:

The internet is a central piece of our society; not only to our social and economic lives, but to our democracy—voters need reliable internet access to stay informed, research candidates, register, request mail-in ballots, and figure out when, where, and how to vote. The internet and social media are also at the forefront of efforts to make progress on issues like climate change, debt forgiveness, and human rights. However, the capacity of the internet to do good is under threat from bad information. 

Misinformation and disinformation currently run rampant online, and they are on track to get even more urgent, with the advent of AI and deepfake technologies. Whether these falsehoods are due to non-malicious errors (misinformation) or deliberate lies intended to sow doubt (disinformation), they have serious consequences for our democracy. When false information about elections, candidates, or current events are spread, voters can get confused or misled. For these reasons, both internet access and media literacy are critical to a healthy modern democracy.

The Solutions:

  1. Improving Civics Education can help young people have better knowledge on their rights and about how the political system functions. By providing tools and resources to schools, Common Cause hopes to help new generations of citizen leaders understand how to effect the changes they wish to see and spot mis/disinformation that threatens our democracy.
  2. Accurate, Accessible, and Accountable Voting Information Sources can provide voters with the information they need to make informed electoral decisions. If voters can get information from clear, reliable sources, they can  fact-check or better contextualize the dubious things they see on social media.
  3. Affordable Broadband Access through programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides discounted or free broadband access and devices to millions of eligible households, more people, especially lower income young voters, can have a way to fully participate in digital democracy.

Take Action:

As we are all on the internet, being sure to personally not to spread misinformation can have a real impact. Disinformation can be hard to combat, but reporting it to can help stop voters from being misled. Civics education practices can be changed at a number of levels. Talking with a civics or government teacher about voting information and media literacy can help your class get informed. Speaking to your local school board/district or college administration can help to change curricula or introduce new practices. On a larger scale, states and the federal government can enact and support policies that improve internet access like the Affordable Connectivity Program, and letting your representatives know how important this issue is can influence them to prioritize it.

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