Unintended Consequences of Disinformation Campaigns on Law Enforcement

Unintended Consequences of Disinformation Campaigns on Law Enforcement
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-12-09
Unit 1Recording: Unintended Consequences of Disinformation Campaigns on Law Enforcement
Unit 2Transcript: Unintended Consequences of Disinformation Campaigns on Law Enforcement
Unit 3Workbook: Unintended Consequences of Disinformation Campaigns on Law Enforcement

Information circulated in online platforms is being leveraged to mobilize the population to stand up for justice and accountability. But the same channels are used to spread false information that can agitate individuals.  People rarely fact-check the story to verify the truth and partisan, if not exaggerated, storytelling can incite people to commit violence for what they believe to be true.

This webinar has a panel of experts from law enforcement, academe, and think tanks to provide their insights on disinformation campaigns.

  • Mark Pfeifle, National Sheriffs’ Association Senior Advisor for Marketing, Strategy, and Communications
  • Paul Goldenberg, with the Rutgers University’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience
  • Chris Swanson, Sheriff of Genesee County (Michigan) and a third-generation law enforcement
  • Graham Brookie, Director and Managing Editor of the Digital Forensic Research Lab
  • Don Mihalek, Executive Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association

The discussion includes:

  • The Comet Ping Pong incident in 2016 which exhibited how QAnon and disinformation about an alleged pedophile ring is weaponized and led to a real-life law enforcement challenge.
  • A glimpse into some of the entities that played a major role in spreading disinformation surrounding COVID-19, the elections, and the protests.
  • Law enforcement’s role to protect, serve and unify, and how doing all three is key to countering the divisive effect of disinformation.
  • The Digital Forensic Research Lab’s work in dealing with the threat of disinformation.
  • Differentiating terms used related to disinformation and categories of disinformation based on its goals.
  • Responding to and building resilience against disinformation by:
    • Fortifying the concepts of credibility and provability.
    • Not giving false information the attention it yearns.
    • Managing response to disinformation thresholds based on its reach and egregiousness.
  • The psychology of disinformation: Looking at how we process information, how we react when presented with opposing views, and the social contagion due to anxiety from disinformation.
  • Best practices to address disinformation by building networks of trust, organizing incoming disinformation, distributing trusted information, and identifying disinformation within the community.
  • Why disinformation must be seen as a threat to federal, state and local law enforcement and even classified as a terroristic activity.
  • The foreign, domestic, and individual actors/sources of disinformation and how they conduct disinformation campaigns and how it impacts society’s consciousness.
  • The efforts across different spheres of society to combat disinformation through:
    • Federal task forces that deal with major players and state actors.
    • Law enforcement community outreach to help citizens with discernment.
    • Citizen’s action to engage with their representatives and lawmakers to hold online platforms accountable for allowing disinformation to proliferate.
  • The horrible toll to law enforcement who are now being targeted due to disinformation.
  • Case examples and reports were presented that demonstrated how:
    • Law enforcement leadership and community engagement brings forth unification amidst divisive incidents they encountered.
    • Disinformation adversely impacted response in critical incidents.
    • Purveyors of disinformation control the narrative, influence how law enforcement is portrayed to the public, and incite violence.


Webinar questions were about:

  • The parameters to identify disinformation.
  • The importance of dialog and feedback when Sheriff Swanson marched with the protesters in Genesee County.
  • Responding to disinformation from a local elected official.



Other Webinars in this Series:


Audience Comments

  • “The varied sources of Disinformation / Information. Perception is a person’s reality. Facts are not checked. Opinions are viewed as facts. Thank you for offering this webinar on a very important, hot topic! Many more people need to attend this webinar. Please offer it again.” — Roseann
  • “To all the presenters…THANK YOU for your presentations and for clarity on terms of misinformation and disinformation and how to prepare for a strategic response!” — Barbara
  • “Enjoyed hearing from local and Federal LE and academia. This provided a good balance of theoretical discussion and practical advice, especially for smaller LEAs that don’t have the kind of resources larger agencies have. The Sheriff’s example was similar to what happened with the CAARNG in LA, where one of our Chaplains entered the crowd and asked the organizer to pray with him. That completely defused what was potentially a dangerous situation.” — Charles
  • “As a member of the National Guard who has responded to these riots and civil unrest, it’s especially comforting to hear the opinion of senior LE officials on this topic. I’m a CJ student in college and learning about all aspects of law and LE, especially in today’s climate, its difficult to connect with so many students who disagree with LE. I appreciated Sheriff Swanson’s piece the most because of his attitude and knowledge on effective community policing.” — Joshua
  • “I wish I could score this higher than a 10! WOW! Great Webinar! Got so much valuable information. Can’t wait for the next one!! Great job everyone!” — Kathy
  • “This was probably one of the best webinars provided by the Justice Clearinghouse with such informative speakers.. Keep up the excellent work!” — Mary
  • “Excellent presenters!! Sheriff Swanson’s message was absolutely fabulous!!! — Madeleine
  • All speakers were excellent in their own way and had very complementary messages to share. Thank you for the information and encouragement.” — Samuel
  • “I really appreciated all the speakers, but like Sheriff Swanson’s perspective of reaching out to the different groups to learn how to not offend or the best way to go about a situation (in regards to the lawsuits he was talking about). This is something I have been practicing for years and trying to influence the younger law enforcement generation.” — Victoria



** This webinar has been certified by the National Sheriffs' Association and may be eligible for Continuing Education Units through your POST. Please consult your local certification processes for additional details. Paid subscribers that attend will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Sheriffs' Association logo.
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