Why Do People Take the Pro-Truth Pledge?

Photo: group of pledge signers writing letters encouraging public figures to take the pledge

 

What prompted people to take the Pro Truth Pledge?

There were a variety of reasons that people took the pledge and these are listed below in no particular order of merit or importance:

  • Politics
  • Personal
  • Media

One thing seems clear. People take the pledge because they want to be part of something important and to be able to take some action that could alter what they perceive as the current public discourse of media, politics, and other information characterized by bias and misinformation. Pledge-takers are concerned with statements whose intention is simply to promote one viewpoint over another, or misinformation which is designed to sway our view and understanding of a topic so that if benefits either some political cause or some economic venture.

That ability to take action seems central to much of what is happening today in various movements worldwide where people seek to take more control over their lives and how they are governed. They are seeking democracy in its purest form.

Media

 

Starting with media, we can make a distinction here between the “mainstream” press, namely newspapers, magazines, television and radio controlled by the major media corporations, and what might be called the media of the people. The latter includes blogs, podcasts, and various social media platforms that are easily accessible to most people and provide a forum for them to express their views. It also provides an opportunity for things that matter to gain traction if people identify, agree and begin to share common ideas. The role of social media in bringing about the sweeping changes of the Arab Spring was profound, and demonstrates the reason why it is subject to strict control in some countries.

The Pro-Truth Pledge can be seen as one such opportunity to share common ground and principles which will guide how we relate to each other and in pursuit of a democratic freedom to have our voice heard and try to influence those in power to adopt the same values and behaviours

Michael DeCandia “I feel that science and critical thought are the life blood of society. These methods carry us through difficult times and help us progress as a society. The spread of fake news threatens this in my mind, so I felt it was necessary to do something. I was looking for a cause to combat misinformation when I saw an advertisement for the PTP.”

Nora Naurava “I didn’t want any biases. I may have to grab at unworthy reporting of events.

Ishi CrewI took it for the same kind of reasons I vote and even pick up trash around here if it’s easy (sometimes as part of group that does an annual Clean the Park Day, though I mostly do it by myself because I don’t like seeing pollution—I would hope one day people can just pick up their own trash.)

 

A lot of media around here is a kind of air pollution—and to an extent, I blame the FCC for that as well as those who wrote the legislation for how FCC regulates the airwaves.

 

I could see the Pro-Truth Pledge eventually having some effect on that process–because it could influence what politicians do, and also who votes for them. (As Gleb has said, this is not too different from efforts like “Silent Spring” or the 60s March on Washington. Just a statement.) They say ‘The price of democracy is eternal vigilance.’ For most people, it seems that’s too expensive. I guess things like voting by computer as is done in Oregon, and having easy tools to ‘fact-check’ may lower the price.”

 

 

Politics

 

There would appear to be a growing level of discontent with the state of politics around the world. Increasingly, people are becoming more vocal about this as various protest movements and marches demonstrate frustration at how out of touch politicians are with the people they are elected to represent. Social media has played its part here as well with the development of electronic petitions, which seek to galvanize public opinion into pressuring politicians or other groups to acquiesce to demands. At times, this has been effective. It is clear, however, from many exposé and news articles that politicians rarely say what they will do or do what they say.

Jim Lentz “I was motivated by the current political environment and my need to do something other than complain about it. The pledge seemed like a small, no risk act to demonstrate my support of principles that I believe in.”

Karen Wiley “I was motivated because of the inundation of ‘alternative facts’ coming out of Washington and all over Facebook during the campaigning.”

Joe JB Shaver “Having been exposed to our very partisan and dysfunctional political arena that is filled with hyperbole and falsehoods, it was extremely motivating to pursue an alternative course.”

 

Eric Evans “Shortly after I joined the Facebook group, “Indivisible Wisconsin,” I began to post comments on political events and actions at the local and national levels. One of my first comments was about the violent and deadly demonstration, by a group of white supremacists and white nationalists, in Charlottesville, Virginia. A member of Indivisible Wisconsin, who disagreed with my comment, questioned whether I knew what I was talking about. In my defense, I posted links to several reputable newspapers that reported the factual information on which I based my comment. The person, who had questioned whether I knew what I was talking about, did not respond. Since that initial experience on Facebook, I continue to include references to legitimate news sources, to support comments that I post on social media. In addition, I fact-check posts that other people place on Facebook, before I comment on them. I have and will warn and then “Unfriend” people on Facebook, who repeatedly post comments and/or information to my timeline which my fact-checking reveals is false.

Personal

When I was growing up it seemed like knowing the difference between right and wrong or good and bad was important, it was something of a moral compass, a sign of a good upbringing. Now society has grown to adopt an attitude of “if it’s alright for you then that’s fine” as a means of combating what some experienced as a judgemental society. Some would say this freedom has enabled us to be more truthful about who we are and what we believe. However, this perspective has potentially created some difficulties for us in how we relate to each other and find common ground on things that we can agree as fact and truth.

Valuing each other as well as ourselves has of course gained traction as tolerance has developed and groups like Hope not Hate strive to support a culture of inclusiveness, and this is to a large extent based on the evidence of truth or fact in combating false views of others. The pledge is seen by some as a statement of their intent to follow a path that seeks facts and evidence and does not rely on ill informed and preconceived notions. They seek values which will support their personal relationships whether with self or others that is first and foremost about the truth.

Jami Miller “I have severe mental illness. Most of the time, I am stable. My medication helps, but doesn’t cure it and doesn’t prevent episodes. If I’m having a very bad episode, I can’t count on my own brain to tell me the truth of what is really happening. Truth, reality, the difference between possible and not possible; that line can be very blurry for me. During these times, I have no choice but to rely on trusted people around me, to help me bridge that gap.

 

So, basically, I’ve been fighting my own brain for truth all my life. Sometimes, I win. Sometimes, I think lizard people might actually exist, but then I come back and win again. Fighting for truth has been a lifelong struggle for me.”

Russell Frizzell “No surprise here, Stephanie is the visionary in our family. I took the pledge to please her. This is no trivial point; popular characters will lead way more people down a good path than unpopular leaders could.”

 

Ishi Crew “For me, scientists and musicians have been more influential than politicians in shaping my views—my social and political views follow directly from the sciences I read, music I listen to, and places I hike. It’s a different path to the ‘truth’ as I see it. A lot of people don’t see that—they think if you don’t show up at a meeting you won’t learn the truth. That is similar to saying if you don’t vote or sign a petition you can’t complain, are a-political, and part of the problem rather than the solution. I’m agnostic, so I sometimes vote and sign petitions.

Diane Wilkinson Trefethen “I joined because ever since I was 6 years old I’ve tried to be a truth teller. Now almost 70 years later, I’m more convinced than ever that even when telling the truth up front hurts, it surely beats eating cold crow later.

 

Linda L. Allen “I have always hated when anyone lied to me: parents, preachers, lovers, politicians. Second, I was trained as a scientist, a MS in biology focused on experimentation. I find truth and reality fascinating. Why pollute them?”

Cory Frost “Fear that as campaigns of misinformation become the norm we may see a Fourth Reich in America.”

Mark and Suzanne EastburnWithout truth there is no meaning.”

 

Ashley RooneyTelling the truth is the most important thing. It’s the only way to determine what works and what doesn’t.”

 

What led you to take the Pro-Truth Pledge? Let us know in your comments!

Why an Iraq War Veteran Took the Pro-Truth Pledge

Caption: Photo of John Kirbow in Northern Afghanistan (Courtesy of John Kirbow)

John Kirbow, a US veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, decided to take the Pro-Truth Pledge, and calls on everyone else to do so. Find out how the pledge impacted him in this blog, and find out why he took the pledge in this video.

Pro-Truth Pledge Translated to French

Serment pro-vérité

Je fais le serment de m’employer à:

Partager la vérité

  • Vérifier : valider l’information pour confirmer sa véracité avant de l’accepter et de la partager
  • Équilibrer : partager la vérité dans son entièreté, même si certains aspects contredisent mes opinions
  • Citer : partager mes sources de sorte que d’autres peuvent vérifier l’information
  • Clarifier : faire une distinction entre les faits et mes opinions

Honorer la vérité

  • Reconnaitre : saluer le partage d’informations véridiques, même par mes opposants
  • Revoir : revoir ma position si mes informations sont disputées, les rétracter si je ne peux les vérifier
  • Défendre : prendre la défense des autres lorsqu’ils sont attaqués pour avoir partagé des informations véridiques, même si nos opinions diffèrent par ailleurs
  • Aligner : aligner mes opinions et mes actions sur les informations véridiques

Promouvoir la vérité

  • Corriger : demander aux gens de rétracter une information réfutée par des sources fiables, même si ce sont mes alliés
  • Éduquer : encourager les personnes autour de moi à ne plus se baser sur des sources non fiables, même si ces sources confortent mes opinions
  • Déférer : accepter que l’avis des experts a plus de poids lorsqu’il y a polémique sur les faits
  • Encourager : Saluer la démarche des personnes qui rétractent des affirmations incorrectes et alignent leur opinion sur la vérité

Pro-Truth Pledge in German

Das Gelöbnis der Wahrheit

Ich verspreche mich ehrlich zu bemühen um:

Die Wahrheit zu teilen
Überprüfen: Informationen prüfen, um zu bestätigen, was wahr ist, bevor ich sie akzeptiere und weiterleite.
Gleichgewicht wahren: Die ganze Wahrheit zu teilen, auch wenn einige Aspekte meine Meinung nicht unterstützen.
Zitieren: Meine Quellen zu nennen, damit andere meine Informationen überprüfen können.
Erläutern: Aussagen klar als Meinung oder Tatsache darzustellen.

Die Wahrheit zu ehren
Bestätigen: anerkennen, wenn andere wahre Informationen teilen, auch wenn wir anderer Meinung sind.

Neu bewerten: Meine Informationen neu zu bewerten, wenn sie herausgefordert werden, und zurückziehen, wenn ich sie nicht nachweisen kann.
Verteidigen: Andere verteidigen, wenn sie wegen wahrer Aussagen unter Angriff kommen, auch wenn wir ansonsten anderer Meinung sind.
Orientieren: Meine Meinungen und Handlungen mit wahren Informationen im Einklang bringen.

Die Wahrheit zu ermutigen
In Stand setzen: Leute bitten, Informationen zurückzuziehen, die von zuverlässigen Quellen widerlegt wurden, auch wenn es sich um meine Verbündeten handelt.
Umschulen: Die um mich herum mit Mitgefühl bitten, unzuverlässige Quellen nicht weiterzuleiten, auch wenn diese Quellen meine Meinung unterstützen.
Beehren: Die Meinungen von Experten vorrangig Glauben schenken, wenn die Tatsachen umstritten sind.
Feiern: Diejenigen Feiern, die falsche Aussagen zurückziehen und ihre Überzeugungen den Tatsachen entsprechend verändern.

PSAs for Podcasts and Radio Shows

Pro-Truth Pledge Translated to Portuguese

Juramento Pró-Verdade

Juro me esforçar para:

Compartilhar a verdade

  • Verificar: confirmar a veracidade da informação antes de aceitá-la e compartilhá-la
  • Equalizar: compartilhar toda a verdade, mesmo se alguns aspectos não apoiarem a minha opinião
  • Citar: compartilhar minhas fontes de modo que outros possam verificar as informações
  • Esclarecer: deixar claro o que são fatos e o que são minhas opiniões.

Honrar a verdade

  • Reconhecer: quando outros estejam compartilhando informações verídicas, mesmo na presença de divergências de opinião
  • Reavaliar: se a veracidade de minha informação for contestada, abandona-la formalmente caso não possa defende-la
  • Defender: pessoas que sejam alvo de ataques por compartilhar informações verdadeiras, mesmo na presença de divergências de opiniões
  • Alinhar: minhas opiniões e ações às informações mais corretas disponíveis

Estimular a verdade

  • Corrigir: pedir às pessoas que retirem informações já falsificadas por fontes confiáveis, mesmo que sejam meus aliados
  • Educar: pedir educadamente que parem de fazer referências à fontes sem credibilidade, mesmo que elas ofereçam apoio às minhas opiniões
  • Conceder: reconhecer que, quando os fatos estão sob disputa, as opiniões de especialistas têm maior chance de estarem corretas
  • Celebrar: os que voltaram atrás em afirmações incorretas e atualizaram suas opiniões de acordo com informações verdadeiras.

Pro-Truth Pledge Translated to Ukrainian

Kодекс Захистника Правди

Я Обiцяю Зробити Усе Можливе Щоби:

Поширювати правду

  • Перевіряти: перевіряти факти, щоб підтвердити, що інформація правдива, перш ніж приймати її на віру і ділитися нею з іншими
  • Долати упередження: поширювати всю інформацію цілком, навіть якщо деякі аспекти не збігаються з моєю особистою думкою
  • Підтверджувати: ділитися своїми джерелами, щоб інші могли перевірити мою інформацію
  • Уточнювати: відокремлювати моє особисте ставлення до фактів від фактів

Поважати правду

  • Підтримувати: підтверджувати, коли інші поширюють правдиву інформацію,навіть коли наші точки зору не збігаються
  • Переглядати: переглядати, якщо моя інформація заперечнa, і публічно відмовлятися від неї, якщо я не можу її підтвердити
  • Захищати: захищати інших, коли вони терплять нападки за те, що вони діляться правдивою інформацією, навіть коли наші точки зору не збігаються
  • Узгоджувати: узгоджувати мої думки і мої дії з достовірною інформацією

Заохочувати правду

  • Виправляти: просити людей прибрати інформацію, яку надійні джерела спростували, навіть якщо ці люди мої прихильники
  • Просвіщати: просити своє оточення припинити використовування недостовірних джерел, навіть якщо ці джерела підтримують мою думку
  • Враховувати: визнавати думки експертів як більш точні, особливо, коли факти оспорюються
  • Вшановувати: святкувати, якщо хтось відмовляється від невірних заяв і наближається до істини

Pro-Truth Pledge Translated to Russian

Кодекс Защитника Правды

Я Обещаю Сделать Все Возможное, Чтобы:

Распространять правду

  • Проверять: проверять факты, чтобы подтвердить, что информация является правдой, прежде чем принимать ее на веру и делиться ею с другими
  • Бороться с предубеждениями: распространять всю информацию целиком, даже если некоторые аспекты не совпадают с моим личным мнением
  • Цитировать: делиться своими источниками, чтобы другие могли проверить мою информацию
  • Уточнять: отделять мое личное мнение от фактов

Уважать правду

  • Поддерживать: подтверждать, когда другие распространяют правдивую информацию, даже когда наши точки зрения не совпадают
  • Пересматривать: пересматривать, если моя информация оспаривается, и публично отказываться от нее, если я не могу ее проверить
  • Защищать: защищать других, когда они попадают под атаку за то, что они делятся правдивой информацией, даже когда наши точки зрения не совпадают
  • Согласовывать: согласовывать мои мнения и мои действия с достоверной информацией

Поощрять правду

  • Исправлять: просить людей убрать информацию, которую надежные источники опровергли, даже если эти люди мои союзники
  • Просвещать: просить окружающих, чтобы они прекратили использовать недостоверные источники, даже если эти источники поддерживают мое мнение
  • Учитывать: признавать мнения экспертов как более точные, особенно, когда факты оспариваются
  • Чествовать: праздновать, если кто-то отказывается от неверных заявлений и приближается к истине

Pro-Truth Pledge Translated to Hungarian

Fogadom, hogy minden erőmmel:

 

Terjesztem az igazságot

  • Ellenőrzés: Előzetesen megbizonyosodom arról, hogy az általam elfogadott és terjesztett információk tényszerűen igazak
  • Kiegyensúlyozottság: A teljes igazságot terjesztem, még ha részben nem is támasztja alá a véleményemet.
  • Hivatkozás: Közzéteszem a forrásaimat, hogy mások is ellenőrizhessék információimat
  • Egyértelműség: Mindig különbséget teszek a tények és a véleményem között

Tisztelem az igazságot

  • Elismerés: Elismerem, ha mások tényszerű igazságokat osztanak meg, még ha egyébként nem is értünk egyet
  • Újraértékelés: Ha értesülésem megkérdőjeleződik, újraértékelem, ha nem tudom alátámasztani, visszavonom
  • Kiállás: Megvédem a tényszerű igazságokat terjesztőket az őket ért támadással szemben, még ha nem is értünk egyet egyebekben
  • Összhang: Véleményemet és tetteimet a tényszerű igazságokhoz igazítom

Bátorítom az igazságot

  • Helyesbítés: A megbízható forrásokkal ellentétes információt terjesztőket felkérem állításaik visszavonására, még ha szövetségeseim is
  • Oktatás: Kíméletesen kérem a környezetemben lévőket, hogy ne használjanak megbízhatatlan információ-forrásokat, még ha az én véleményemet támasztják is alá
  • Elfogadás: Tények vitatása esetén szakértők véleményére hagyatkozom, mivel azok nagyobb valószínőséggel helyesek
  • Gratuláció: Ünnepelek mindenkit aki visszavonja téves állításait és meggyőződését az igazsághoz igazítja

What is Misinformation?

The Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP) is violated when a pledge-taker shares misinformation. From the perspective of the PTP, misinformation is anything that goes against the truth of reality. It can mean directly lying about the situation at hand, for instance when an athlete denies taking steroids that she was actually taking. It can mean lying by omission, as when a scholar publishes a study with a successful experiment, while hiding that he conducted 50 of the same experiments that failed, until by random chance one finally worked, a phenomenon known as publication bias. Another example is when politicians cherry-pick numbers or stories that are not representative of actual reality to support their candidacy, for instance saying that violent crime is rising and giving an example of a gruesome murder when in reality police statistics show a decrease in violent crime. Misinformation can mean using obviously inflated statistics to support one’s argument, such as an economic commentator saying that people are better off right now because they earn more money while failing to adjust current earnings for inflation. It can mean misrepresenting someone else’s position in such a way that a neutral observer would have a completely twisted perspective of that position. Misinformation can mean representing an opinion as a fact, such as referencing an editorial or expert analysis (both opinions) and treating them as facts. It can mean insisting something is true despite lacking clear evidence that it is in fact true, especially after being challenged about the claim. It can mean sharing an article whose headline is at odds with the conclusions reached in the article. In a nutshell, misinformation is anything that conveys information in an obviously deceptive way that leads audiences to have a fundamentally wrong impression of the truth in any given matter.

In some cases, such misinformation is obvious, so that any reasonable external observer – in this case, fellow pledge-takers who evaluate each other – can see it. In other cases, it is less so. For those cases, the PTP calls on pledge signers to rely on credible fact-checking websites and/or on the scientific consensus. Rather than going through the process of vetting fact-checking websites, we have decided to outsource that work to Facebook, which is partnering with websites it has vetted and evaluated as credible. As of the initial unveiling, the websites include Snopes, Politifact, ABC News, and FactCheck.org, and more will be added over time. All these are members of a common coalition, the Poynter International Fact Checking Network, and have committed to a common set of principles. Any other websites that Facebook uses will be considered credible for PTP purposes. Someone who takes the pledge will be considered in violation of the pledge if they make a claim that is similar to those rated as “mostly false” or “completely false” by one of these websites (they use different language, but you get the idea). In a case where credible websites disagree, for instance one calls a claim “mostly false” and another calls it “mostly true,” we will not consider the claim a violation of the PTP.

In some cases, fact-checking websites have not evaluated certain claims, but the claim will be opposed by scientific research. Since science is the best of all methods we as human beings have found to determine the reality about the world and predict the outcomes of our actions, someone will be evaluated as in violation of the pledge if they make a claim that goes against the scientific consensus. We are comfortable with the Wikipedia definition of scientific consensus as “the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity. Consensus is normally achieved through communication at conferences, the publication process, replication (reproducible results by others), and peer review. These lead to a situation in which those within the discipline can often recognize such a consensus where it exists, but communicating to outsiders that consensus has been reached can be difficult, because the ‘normal’ debates through which science progresses may seem to outsiders as contestation. On occasion, scientific institutes issue position statements intended to communicate a summary of the science from the ‘inside’ to the ‘outside’ of the scientific community.” Thus, we can recognize scientific consensus by position statements by prestigious scientific organizations, such as this statement from 18 associations on climate change, or the result of meta-analysis studies (evaluations of a series of other prominent studies) that come to a clear determination, such as this study on the relationship of vaccines and autism. Since science gets ahead in part through individual scientists with expertise in a certain domain challenging the scientific consensus in that domain, those who are scientists do not have to abide by the scientific consensus in areas where they have scientific expertise; for all others, since it is very rare for the scientific consensus to be accurately judged as wrong by external observers, going against the scientific consensus is a violation of the pledge. Note that while we encourage deferring to experts in any specific domain, due to people’s intuitive tendency to have excessive confidence in their own opinions and underestimate the value of expert opinions, we consider going against expert opinion a violation of the pledge only in the case of a clear scientific consensus.

No one is perfect, and we do not assume anyone will be perfect in sticking to the truth-oriented behaviors described in the pledge. That is why the pledge asks for your “earnest efforts” to pursuing these behaviors, as opposed to perfection. We encourage all pledge-takers to support and encourage each other in pursuing truth-oriented behaviors, by highlighting opportunities for improvement in doing so by other pledge-takers and praising those who pursue such behaviors even despite obstacles. At the same time, we cannot read anyone’s mind and see whether they dedicated “earnest efforts” to these behaviors or not. What may be easy to some people may be incredibly difficult to others, for all sorts of reasons; what may be glaring lapses in pursuing these behaviors may be invisible to others. Thus, we do not consider situations where pledge-takers failed to engage in these behaviors as violations of the pledge. Still, we do need at least some clear and externally-verifiable standards of when people violate the pledge, something that all pledge-takers can agree on and externally verify. The three points above offer that opportunity for clear external verification that all pledge-takers agree to avoid: statements deliberately meant to mislead, going against credible fact-checking sites, or going against the scientific consensus.

Violations of the pledge only apply to statements made in and about the public sphere. In other words, it does not apply to private interactions, such as when a wife tells her husband his new shirt makes him look really muscular, regardless of what she really thinks. It does not apply to semi-private contexts, such as when a fisherman tells tall tales about the size of the fish he caught. It does not apply to religious or other values-based contexts, except in cases where the statement is misinformation about public discourse. It does not apply to cases that cannot be reasonably verified by an outside party and/or have to do with personal beliefs and spiritual experiences, such as when a politician or a pastor says “I support this policy because of God’s personal revelations to me,” or an environmentalist says “I support protecting the environment because otherwise the spirit of Mother Earth would suffer.” It does not apply to internal communications within an organization, unless these communications are about public discourse: for instance, the pledge would not apply to conversations about hiring, unless there is a claim made that an organization is hiring people because of changes in public policy. The pledge matters only in verifiable statements relevant to broader public discourse, such as when a private citizen shares a piece of viral deception online, or a journalist misquotes a source, or a pastor makes false claims about miracle healing and encourages parishioners to avoid going to doctors, or a scientist hides unfavorable experimental results relevant to public policy, or a business owner makes false claims about the value of the product they are offering or how a policy impacts their business, or a politician spreads falsehoods about her opponent or denies clear evidence based on the scientific consensus on a topic.

 

P.S. You can either ask a public figure to retract their statement privately, or if that doesn’t work, you can report a violation here.