MIT Libraries statement on disinformation

In the MIT Libraries, we see a role for ourselves in combating the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in spreading and amplifying disinformation. Solving the challenge of disinformation and its nefarious effects on democracy will require multiple approaches to understanding causes and effects.

We are saddened and troubled by the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, resulting in multiple deaths, including one on-duty U.S. Capitol Police Officer. We are concerned about our elected officials, who must contend with these events’ consequences for many months to come. Our hearts go out to the custodial staff (comprised primarily of people of color) who cleaned up the wreckage left behind by the insurrectionists.

As the investigation of the insurrection unfolds, it appears that a massive disinformation campaign was a crucial driver in negatively activating many people who participated in the insurrection. The insurrectionists believed legally rejected claims that nationwide voter fraud resulted in the election of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and various members of Congress. This disinformation campaign was perpetrated primarily on social media by individuals using artificial intelligence to create bot accounts that amplified white supremacist and anti-democratic sentiments.

The MIT Libraries are eager to partner with researchers within the Institute and our colleagues in the global information community to address the growing misuse and abuse of artificial intelligence in spreading all forms of disinformation.

Our strategy includes the following:

  • We will create inclusive approaches to understanding the impact of AI on our user communities both inside and outside of MIT.
  • We will advance ethical practices with the use of AI within our libraries.
  • We will commit to incorporating human-centered design philosophies with the potential impact of AI in current and future staffing models.
  • We will produce an ongoing series of educational programming and research initiatives on disinformation and AI in partnership with MIT faculty and researchers and our colleagues in the information professions.

The insurrection provides a vivid and disturbing example of how disinformation and tactics such as using technology to amplify hostile messaging can have fatal results. The MIT Libraries stands ready to lead and support efforts to address one of the most critical issues facing today’s libraries and our workforces.