Attacked by conservatives, UW misinformation researcher gears up for 2024

December 10, 2023

The Seattle Times

In a small meeting room on the University of Washington campus, researcher Kate Starbird stood at a glass whiteboard as she brainstormed with two doctoral students how to dissect information posted to the politicized, hyperbolic and often wildly speculative free-for-all that is social media.

To create research papers that show how misinformation spreads, they took an academic, even nerdy approach. They talked about devising coding systems for posts that represent “collective sense-making” and “deep stories” (narratives that feel true, even if they’re not).


But Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics at the same university, said the damage wrought by misinformation can be profound, in some cases inciting people to violence. What’s more, she said, if researchers were told they couldn’t make requests to platforms, “that would actually be in violation of their own First Amendment rights.”

Further, she said, in conservatives’ voluminous reports and litigation she’s seen no evidence that social media platforms felt coerced — a key part of censorship.

Read the full article in the Seattle Times.