Social Science Research Council to Continue Work of Developing Catalog of Potential Online Responses to Misinformation

July 12, 2023

The Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC) will take on the continued development of the ARTT Catalog, a core component of the Analysis and Response Toolkit for Trust (ARTT) Guide, an initiative focused on helping people engage in trust-building ways and facilitate constructive online exchanges around difficult topics.

“The ARTT Catalog, with its focus on guiding individuals toward trusted information and helping them engage better with their peers, is a great fit for the Social Science Research Council,” says Molly Laas, Program Director, Media & Democracy at SSRC. “The collaboration with the ARTT team will allow the Media & Democracy program to further its mission of connecting diverse publics with research, helping to foster a deeper popular understanding of the role of media and technology in public life.”

The next iteration of the Catalog will be developed with insights from scholars convened by the SSRC as part of the development of the ARTT Guide. The Guide is a suite of expert-informed resources that are intended to provide guidance and encouragement to individuals and communities as they address contentious or difficult topics online. Funded by the National Science Council’s Convergence Accelerator, the ARTT Guide will help motivated citizens who are working to address misinformation online by suggesting appropriate responses for successfully engaging in online conversations. Phase II of the ARTT project, which launched in October 2022, is expected to result in a public-facing tool that will be released in spring 2024.

“The ARTT Catalog is a key component of the ARTT Guide, an online resource that contains the latest, most up-to-date cross-disciplinary research about how to effectively respond to tricky conversations online, which, as I’m sure we have all experienced, is extremely challenging to do,” says Andrea Bras, ARTT Partnerships Coordinator. “The choices we make about how to engage in constructive exchanges around difficult topics can vary based on the topic being discussed, the context, one’s relationship to the speaker, or the platform of discussion. The ARTT Guide doesn’t just analyze online content, but actually suggests conversational tactics in order to complete the sentence, ‘What do I say (and how do I say it)?’ in online conversations that can potentially become quite heated.”

One example of a difficult online exchange the ARTT Guide is designed to help with are conversations around vaccines, where misinformation can result in vaccine hesitancy and lower rates of vaccination. While one goal in such an exchange around misinformation might be to provide factually correct information about vaccines, whether online participants accept this new information as ‘correct’ may depend on their trust in the speaker or the speaker’s sources.

“So, if that trust is broken or non-existent, immediate correction may not be the best response,” says Bras. “The ability to discuss information in a productive way may also involve skills such as listening and require additional time or a set of exchanges, and the ARTT Guide tool, once complete, will suggest different trust-building responses.”

The Catalog has distilled trust-building responses from diverse disciplines including psychology, media literacy, conflict resolution and conflict transformation, and science communication to explore how these interventions may overlap, interact, or counteract each other. The research papers and other resources that make up the Catalog are organized by tags that represent different response modes or options for a conversation with misinformation or contentious content.

“The Catalog is a collection of research and practitioner reports from a range of disciplines,” says Tarunima Prabhakar, a researcher who helped develop the tagging system. “Broadly speaking, the Catalog includes empirical studies, meta-analyses, toolkits, and policy papers that are relevant to trust-building responses and interventions in an online discourse.”

The Social Science Research Council’s MediaWell initiative, whose citation library curates foundational research and news on digital disinformation and misinformation, provided suggestions for research when initially developing the Catalog.

“MediaWell’s system for categorizing papers served as an inspiration as the ARTT team considered our own work, so we’re quite happy that SSRC will continue to nurture this part of the project,” says Prahabkar.

“MediaWell seeks to collect and synthesize research on information integrity and mis- and disinformation, and to present findings in an accessible way. We summarize research findings, identify gaps in scholarship, contribute to policy decisions, and translate academic knowledge for a broad audience of scholars, journalists, and interested citizens,” says SSRC’s Molly Laas.

“In addition, as the Catalog is intended as a standalone resource for researchers in the field, SSRC will host it on the MediaWell site, and ensure that this catalog remains relevant to the people who use it,” says Laas. “We’re looking forward to ensuring the sustainability of the Catalog moving forward, and helping people pursue productive conversations online.”

For updates on the development of the Catalog, check back on the Analysis and Response Toolkit for Trust (ARTT) and MediaWell websites.

Media Contacts:

Connie Moon Sehat, ARTT Principal Investigator:

Molly Laas, SSRC Program Director, Media & Democracy: