The Board of Supervisors voted this week to develop a countywide strategy for combating and countering misinformation and disinformation across a variety of fronts, including issues such as elections and immigration.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion, citing well-publicized issues of misinformation surrounding topics such as the 2020 presidential election, COVID-19 and other matters. The motion directs the county CEO to develop a “communications toolkit” that individual departments can use to counter such misinformation campaigns.
It also calls for the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office to develop a public education campaign aimed at building trust in the electoral process.
“Disinformation has made the COVID-19 pandemic even more deadly,” Kuehl said in a statement. “It has undermined our democratic processes, and created a climate in which attacks on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender have been alarmingly normalized. [This] action is a first step in our effort to fight back. It will put in motion several different strategies for ensuring that our democracy, our public health and our public trust are not further undermined by irresponsible individuals trying to make money or gain power by spreading demonstrably false information.”
The motion also calls for the hiring of a consultant to “define the types of misinformation/disinformation that demand a county departmental response.” It also calls for the county to send letters signed by board members to the leaders of “major social media, instant messaging and other relevant companies” to ask that they invest in “online education campaigns and platform product features to increase users’ awareness and resistance to online misinformation, including investments in tackling misinformation in content that is culturally appropriate and available in multiple languages.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against the motion, saying she agreed with its overall intent, but questioned the plan’s effectiveness. She also suggested that hiring a consultant wasn’t the way to address the issue.