WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2020)—Today, opportunities for fake news, fearmongering and misinformation are more pervasive than ever. A global pandemic, widespread protests and a politically divided nation have put people on edge. Yet, from the “War on Drugs” to “juvenile superpredators,” it is clear to see that misleading—or even outright false—information is not a new problem. However, with better data, research and public information, policymakers can limit its unwieldy power in public debates.

In a new policy study, Emily Mooney, Resident Fellow of Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties, and Casey Witte, Research and Policy Associate of Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties, argue that “fake news” and misinformation are not new problems, especially in the criminal justice space.

“To protect our institutions, policy debates should focus on empirical outcomes, encourage the use of sunset clauses in legislation and allow politicians to change their views without scorn to encourage more open-minded debates,” said Mooney and Witte.

They further argue that if President-elect Biden wants to bring a rhetorically divided nation together and promote unity, he needs to combat misinformation and fear by ensuring transparent and robust data collection; supporting research funding and evaluation; utilizing public information campaigns; and aligning incentives with policy innovation and efficacy.

You can read the full paper, “Fake News, Real Policy: Combatting Fear and Misinformation in Criminal Justice,” here.