An Open Letter to the Editorial Board of “Misinformation Review”

As members of the editorial board of Harvard Kennedy School’s Misinformation Review, your presence is meant to confer credibility and legitimacy upon the journal. However the journal’s evident disinterest in the truth, and its vehement hostility to debate, naturally precludes any such effect.

You have likely heard that, earlier this summer, the American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) Advocacy Foundation called on Misinformation Review to retract its article “Disinformation creep: ADOS and the strategic weaponization of breaking news.” The demand was accompanied by a formal rebuttal that identified the authors’ defective methodology, refuted their defamatory findings, and revealed the dramatic extent to which “Disinformation creep” violated the journal’s own publication ethics.

Indeed, far from “insist[ing] on ethical behavior from its editors, reviewers, and authors,” as Misinformation Review purports to do, “Disinformation creep” reveals a leadership team that fosters a highly permissive atmosphere at the journal when it comes to publishing flagrant dishonesty. And whether by preemptively blocking ADOS activists on Twitter, or by not returning a single one of those activists’ numerous phone calls or e-mails, the editorial staff has signaled its intention to foreclose on any possibility of post-publication dispute. These kinds of actions directly contradict the journal’s assertion that “[a]ny cases of ethical misconduct will be treated very seriously.”

That such factually untrue claims about our movement were allowed to make it to print attests to a peer review process at Misinformation Review that is sieve-like in its ability to ensure that bad information does not end up in the hands of the American public. Certainly the irony of this failure at a journal that claims to guard against exactly such insidious dissemination is not lost on its editorial board, nor the idea that it is only to the detriment of your credibility and your legitimacy that Misinformation Review not be made to immediately issue a full retraction of the offending article.

As Darren Linvill, one of your fellow board members, recently remarked, “What [the authors of ‘Disinformation creep’] are describing…waters down the term ‘disinformation.’” Professor Linvill further said that, had he any knowledge of “Disinformation creep” prior to its publication, he would have “recommended reject[ing] the piece.”

Beyond going on record as sharing Professor Linvill’s concerns about the implications of such an irresponsible and mendacious work of scholarship being part of the public domain, we are calling on you, the editorial board, to take the appropriate action of collectively advising the editor-in-chief at Misinformation Review to apologize to the #ADOS movement, issue a full retraction of “Disinformation creep”, and publish the ADOS Advocacy Foundation’s rebuttal in its next issue.

Inaction by the editorial board in this regard will only further mar Misinformation Review’s already sullied reputation.

It will signal the board’s support for the shameful ethical precedent that the journal’s leadership has established.

And it will tacitly condone the presence of an extremely corrosive set of norms and practices at what claims to be an authoritative, credible, and trustworthy voice of truth in the fight against misinformation.

We exhort the editorial board to act with haste and intervene on behalf of a public whose right to unbiased information must be guaranteed, particularly in this pivotal moment of transformative possibility in America with respect to racial justice. Do you not believe the public deserves to know the truth about our movement? A movement which — unhampered by the sorts of baseless and vilifying allegations found in “Disinformation creep” — promises to usher in a great national reckoning with America’s pernicious and enduring legacy of slavery.

Make no mistake, you now have a decisive role to play in helping bring that moment to pass. The opportunity is yours to either squander or seize.

Sincerely,

The American Descendants of Slavery Advocacy Foundation