Disinformation is more than just lies, it’s about power.
The problem of mis & disinformation in Asian American communities is not just about what constitutes ‘true’ or ‘false’ information, but rather how we understand misleading, manipulative, & deceptive information practices as facilitating harm in our communities.
Letter of Support for Caste Equity
The Asian American Disinformation Table unequivocally supports the movement for caste equity and recognizes the important work led by organizations like Equality Labs to achieve protections for caste-oppressed people. Equality Labs and other Dalit and South Asian organizations are facing casteist disinformation and reputation smears as retaliation for advocating to address the lived realities of caste discrimination; these tactics seek to intimidate them into silence and undermine their public credibility through the spreading of lies and verbal harassment.
We know that disinformation is not just about lies, it is about power and exposes frictions, fault lines, and tensions within and across our various diasporic communities. As a coalition committed to issues of racial justice and equity, we see the necessity for caste reconciliation in our communities. We write in support of Equality Labs as an organization that supports and represents caste-oppressed communities and strongly condemn the efforts of bad actors seeking to undermine the credibility of the organization.
The Asian American Disinformation Table is a national table that coordinates research, strategies, policy recommendations, pop culture, messaging interventions, & corporate accountability around issues of domestic & transnational misinformation and disinformation impacting Asian Americans.
We are an interfaith, inter-caste, multi-ethnic, multi-language coalition that builds shared intergenerational resilience across Asian American communities. We support individual member organizations working on issues against polarization & harmful narratives, sharing learnings, and coordinating with allies outside the U.S.
Tell me more
The Asian American Disinformation Table understands Asian American as a collective political formation that includes immigrant and diasporic communities with homelands connected to Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Rim (e.g. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Philippines, India, Japan, Pakistan, Korea, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Caribbean, Burma, Tibet, and many ethnic and religious minorities).
The Asian American Disinformation Table is anchored by the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), and is part of the Disinformation Defense League network, a project of the Media Democracy Fund.
The Asian American Disinformation Table is co-chaired by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian American Justice Center (AAAJ-AAJC), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Equality Labs, and NCAPA.
Power, Platforms, and Politics.
While such disinformation may originate from bad actors with malicious intent (and certainly, there are key actors and influencers with power and capital), they can also spread in seemingly more innocent ways such as between family members or within community groups—sometimes even out of ‘good’ intentions and care.
Such information harms occur at disparate and incommensurable scales, ranging from the incitement of deadly Asian American racial violence and voter suppression. Our approach to disinformation expands on the limitations of current mainstream definitions that focus on truthfulness and intent. Instead, we focus on how harmful information and problematic narratives become mobilized to maintain and expand existing power structures and inequities.
Mapping disinformation in our communities involves an active commitment to seeking the end of intersecting structural oppressions, including white supremacy, caste oppression, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, sexism, transphobia, ableism, and misogyny.
What is dis-, mis-, and malinformation?
Disinformation is misleading, incorrect, or false information spread with the intent to harm and mislead, often for political gain or profit.
Misinformation is misleading, incorrect, or false information that is spread with no intent to harm; the people spreading it don’t know it is false.
Malinformation is genuine information shared with an intent to cause harm, such as doxxing or revealing private information.
What is racialized disinformation?
Disinformation is not race neutral.
To research and legislate on mis- and disinformation as a race-neutral phenomenon is not only misguided, but does a disservice to solution-oriented efforts because it ignores the complex and often emblematic issues that people of color experience online. These approaches go far beyond language-based differences in platform moderation. Cultural competency and a deep contextual understanding of racialized disinformation is necessary if we are to adequately address the issues that contribute to the spread of harmful information.
Racialized disinformation perpetuates and gives rise to inequalities, seeks to consolidate power among ruling classes, and sustains white supremacy. Communities of color globally face the brunt of the persecution and violence underpinned by mis- and disinformation on platforms that continue to reward those who produce incendiary content. From Taiwan, Myanmar, the Philippines, and India, to here in the U.S., disinformation has been at the center of attacks on disenfranchised communities. It works through the use of stereotypes and wedge issues meant to divide and target individuals, groups, and movements with harassment, slander, and criminalization. Racialized disinformation can also be weaponized to disrupt solidarity among different marginalized communities.
Why do we need to tailor our approach to Asian American communities?
Asians and Asian Americans, like other communities, may find disinformation in their daily lives, including through social media platforms and other information networks.
However, there are several key factors unique to our communities which affect the spread and impact of disinformation. Asian Americans come from a plethora of ethnic, cultural, and geopolitical backgrounds; people’s lived experiences of survival, geopolitical conflicts, personal encounters with states and governments, and economic circumstances affect how they engage politically and how they consume news and information across national boundaries. Asian Americans are also spread out across more platforms, often in-language, in comparison to other demographics. Effectively tracking the variety of narratives that may be spreading is difficult, as a result of the numerous platforms Asian Americans use. Approaches to fighting disinformation in Asian American communities must take all these contexts into account in order to effectively reach those communities.
Fact-checking or platform takedowns are not enough. We need a multipronged strategy to build a political agenda for racial justice.
Disinformation is explicitly designed to expose the frictions, fault lines, and tensions within and across our various diasporic communities while also working to deplatform us from democracy and create divisions with other communities of color. That is why we must connect the process of monitoring Asian American disinformation with power building to return trust, consensus, and accountability to our community narratives.
Safeguarding all communities against the harmful consequences of mis- and disinformation requires centering the experiences and work of those most affected in order to thoroughly address issues at their core.
The Table serves as a convening space for researchers to share their findings, collaborate, and build strategies together. Different forms of research and narrative interventions include media monitoring, surveys, and creating in-language toolkits and platforms.
Beyond documentation and monitoring, we work to develop collective strategies and tactics for narrative change. How we tell our stories and the ways we use stories for healing and building empathy are communicative tools our communities have been using for centuries.
For effective movement building and advocacy, we bring people to build connections for organizing strategic cross-movement and cross-sector gatherings of grassroots, policy, and advocacy groups.
We aim to coordinate and research trauma-informed practices and find opportunities for collective repair and healing, including burnout prevention, intentional relationship building, and using transformative justice approaches to address harm and conflict.
Power, Platforms and Politics:
A Landscape Report on Asian Americans & Disinformation
This report offers a preliminary landscape analysis of mis- and disinformation within and about Asian/Asian American diasporic communities with the aim of strengthening Asian American movement building.
Researching and organizing against disinformation in Asian American communities requires nuanced understandings of relations of power; the numerous platforms and ethnic media outlets that communities use; and multiple languages and cultural and political contexts.