Integrity is often on the ballot in presidential elections, but vowing not to tell lies should be a given, not a point of integrity.
But that’s the place we find ourselves in these times where social media deceptions and doctored electronic communication get half way around the world before the truth gets down the street.
With the growing number of fake news sites on the internet (Politifact has counted more than 200), elected leaders should be concerned not so much in people disagreeing with them, but people not having a grip on the basic facts.
Democrats have taken the lead on combatting misinformation during campaigns.
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin and others have sparked an internal debate in their party on whether the Democratic National Committee should pledge to not use disinformation tactics. Some within the party are hesitant to make such a “pledge” feeling it would be a disadvantage when Republicans show no signs of a willingness to adopt the same pledge.
We urge both parties to make the pledge and stick to it.
Disinformation has only grown more prevalent and more severe since the 2016 election. The FBI and other intelligence agencies as well as the 400-page investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller have determined without a doubt the pervasiveness of disinformation. Mueller’s report specifically pointed to the Russian Internet Research Agency as the perpetrator in disinformation campaigns that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. The tactics of the group, several of whom Mueller indicted, help influence the election for President Donald Trump.
A recent U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Republicans, reported the Russians are even more active on social media than they were in 2016.
Yet, in this environment, national parties won’t commit to rejecting disinformation as a tactic. The Democrats have at least been discussing it, with Martin pushing the national party to adopt the pledge. Martin led an association of state party committees to push the DNC to adopt a policy that denounced fake news social media accounts, bots and other internet disinformation tools.
Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan told the Star Tribune the GOP would consider such a pledge, but one was not currently proposed by state or the national GOP.
We give Martin and the Democratic Party credit for pursuing this policy condemning disinformation. It’s disappointing Republicans don’t seem to have much interest.
Of course, President Donald Trump has been willing to share tweets that have been proven false and shared doctored videos on social media, including one since taken down that falsely showed Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi as under the influence while giving a speech.
The media landscape has been flooded with bots and lies spread on social media making the truth very difficult to find for average news consumers. That political parties would reject making it easier for voters to find the truth is more than a little troubling.