Disinformation Research Group

Who We Are

Upon recognition of the threat that false information poses to science, the Federation of American Scientists established the Disinformation Research Group (FAS DRG). FAS DRG is composed of scientists, communications experts, data-scientists, and technologists with the intended purpose of detecting, understanding, and effectively exposing disinformation and false narratives surrounding COVID-19. FAS DRG uses multiple methods, technologies, and resources to execute the mission.

What We Do

FAS DRG detects disinformation through media monitoring and uses additional testing and analysis to better understand the spread of false information. The key outputs of this work is the exposure and countering of identified disinformation and misinformation through multiple reports. Reports have addressed the following trends in disinformation.

What is Disinformation?

Disinformation is any communication (either overt or covert) containing intentionally false material, often combined selectively with true information, which seeks to mislead and manipulate an audience. The volume and velocity of the current disinformation tsunami surrounding COVID-19 is unprecedented compared to any other time in human history.

The rise of complex advertising and targeting technologies has resulted into the era of micro-segmentation, whereby audiences can select what they believe to be true rather than a single unified version of reality or consensus from science. Rather than accepting an answer they do not like, they are now peddled manipulated versions of reality with the intent to appeal to their biases. This ultimately increases revenue when platforms transform these users into custom audiences sought out by advertisers. These versions of reality are reinforced through both organic and artificially manipulated echo chambers, resulting in the viral spread of disinformation.

The Disinformation Research Team

rich headshot

Rich Takacs, MPA, MPP

DRG Teammate & FAS Adjunct Fellow

Data science and risk detection


Kathryn Kohn, MA

DRG Teammate & FAS Comms Manager

Political theory & communications

Evelyn Torsher

DRG Teammate

Data scientist and intelligence analyst

Contact the Disinformation Research Group at press@fas.org.

Disinformation Research Group

“Expert” Opinion More Likely to Damage Vaccine Trust Than Political Propaganda

The biggest threat to reliable information access for military and DoD service members is expert opinion. A high-level analysis of anti-COVID vaccine narratives on social media reveals that opinions from experts achieve higher relevancy and engagement than opinions from news pundits, even if the news source is considered reliable by its base.  Read More

Global enthusiasm and American trepidation in Russian diplomatic vaccine efforts

The announcement of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, also referred to as Sputnik V, has received marginal reception in the United States. Within U.S. domestic social media conversation, Sputnik V is generally perceived as unreliable. These concerns could potentially add to preexisting skepticism towards vaccine efforts in the U.S. more generally. Read More