June 14, 2022
Today we are announcing that First Draft is closing its doors to make way for the next chapter — its mission will continue at the newly launched Information Futures Lab, an initiative from Brown’s School of Public Health.
In 2022 we face a world in which the challenges around information disorder are different from when we began, and we welcome the infusion of resources and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration in our new home.
The Information Futures Lab is the ideal place for us to meet these challenges. Public health affects all spheres of daily life from vaccine disinformation, which spills into elections discourse to political polarization that hampers progress in reducing gun violence’s brutal toll. Across issues we see similar tactics, sources, and actors, and how communities that have already suffered are the most vulnerable to online harms.
First Draft began in 2015 as a small nonprofit coalition that grew out of a need to understand, debunk, and provide guidance on the misinformation we all were seeing on the social web. Over the next six years, we:
- built out teams in London, New York and Sydney;
- designed a new collaborative model (CrossCheck) for monitoring and responding to misinformation. CrossCheck lives on in the Comprova project in Brazil, where 42 national, regional, and local newsrooms continue to collaborate in real time; and in Australia, where a diverse range of newsrooms worked together during the recent election;
- worked on misinformation projects in almost 20 elections around the world;
- trained more than 10,000 journalists, public health professionals, and community leaders;
- worked in nine languages and in 60 countries;
- published research reports, developed typologies, and coined terminology that continue to be used and cited;
- developed a team of almost 100 staff, many of whom have gone on to work with the most important newsrooms, platforms, civil society organizations, and policy spaces.
We’re very proud of the work First Draft has done, and we are grateful to our many colleagues who have contributed to it and to all the funders who believed and invested in us.
Now we’re excited about what we can all do together next. It’s time to work collectively to build an empirical and evidence-based foundation for solutions. In the European Union, Australia, the United States and beyond, policy makers are having spirited discussions and beginning to create regulations for digital platforms — mandating algorithmic transparency, banning discriminatory practices, reducing hate speech, establishing antitrust actions. We have the opportunity to bring substance to the debate about systemic changes, while continuing to help the public and professionals to develop new literacy skills in navigating online spaces.
We invite you to join us at the Information Futures Lab, with our team based across the US and in Sydney. The Lab will have a twice-monthly newsletter, an exciting Fellows program, and projects aimed at supporting those who are working on the front lines of mitigating the harmful effects of misinformation.
Meanwhile, the hard work we’ve done at First Draft remains. In the coming months, we’ll be curating the resources we’ve developed and finalizing a plan to keep them in the public domain. Stay tuned for more information about that, and meanwhile, see you over at the Information Futures Lab!
– Claire Wardle, Executive Director, First Draft