Intentional Insights: Pro-Truth Pledge

Lies and incivility are destroying democracies around the world, but you can fight back now. 

The Problem

Healthy democracies depend on well-informed citizens, yet we are constantly inundated with false and misleading statements, whether on social media or in speeches by prominent politicians. In fact, Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as its word of the year following the U.S. and U.K. elections in 2016, where lying and incivility proved to be successful strategies for political candidates and causes.

Democracies are vulnerable when voters struggle to tell facts from falsehoods. Multiple studies have shown that increasing numbers of people distrust traditional sources of facts, such as mainstream media and fact checking organizations, while turning to social media for news. At the same time, research has shown that most social media news consumers cannot differentiate real and fake news stories. The tide of misinformation and incivility is especially dangerous because it is breeding distrust and political polarization, which can erode democracies and lead to the rise of authoritarian and corrupt regimes.

Extensive research points to the underlying causes of this situation: few incentives for both private citizens and public figures to be truthful and civil combined with a lack of accountability for spreading misinformation.

The Solution

Fighting misinformation and protecting truth and civility requires differentiating those who spread misinformation from truth-tellers, while rewarding truth-tellers with a better reputation and uniting them across the political spectrum. The Pro-Truth Pledge project does so by reclaiming the fuzzy concept of "truth," which different people can interpret differently, with 12 clearly-observable behaviors that correlate with truthfulness and civility according to research in behavioral science. Private citizens who took the pledge then evaluate statements by public figures to hold them accountable.

Over eight thousand people on six continents have signed the Pro-Truth Pledge at including 4 US Congress members and more than 25 US state legislators (both Republican and Democrat), as well as politicians in other countries, and globally-known public intellectuals Peter Singer, Steven Pinker, and Jonathan Haidt. Two research studies published in peer-reviewed journals (the Journal of Social and Political Psychology and Behavior and Social Issues) demonstrated the effectiveness of the Pro-Truth Pledge in changing the behavior of pledge-takers to be more truthful.

This evidence of behavior change and traction in having both prominent public figures and many private citizens taking it shows that the Pro-Truth Pledge represents exactly the kind of two-pronged approach needed to solve the problem of misinformation and incivility that threaten democracies.

Planned Use Of Funds

Your funding will help the Pro-Truth Pledge project grow by funding salary of a volunteer coordinator and developing an online marketing campaign to encourage people to take the pledge.

Stage of Development

  • Early Stage
  • Established Prototype
  • Scaling
  • Other

Organization to Receive Funds

The Pro-Truth Pledge is a project of Intentional Insights, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit organization based in Columbus, Ohio.

This project was nominated by: