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Help is available to safely navigate the digital jungle 

The online world is an ever-changing environment replete with threats, scams, and misinformation. This is exacerbated by the advent of deep fakes and increase in AI-generated misinformation. No  organization, industry, or individual is immune, and some populations are targeted more than others. The Digital Strength Initiative can help these vulnerable populations and organizations looking to restore trust in their institutions. Presented here are case studies for specific at-risk groups and industry domains that can each benefit through the Digital Strength Initiative’s tools, training, and resources.  


Specific populations are targeted at higher rates by sources of misinformation, including older adults, diverse communities, and teens. We’re here to help with tools that are proven effective. 

Older Adults 

Build digital strength to foster well-being 

Sources of misinformation target older individuals more frequently than younger people, as this  generation has accrued more financial resources, and it participates in elections at higher  levels. Unfortunately, this generation is not only targeted, but is also more likely to unwittingly  spread misinformation, highlighting the multifaceted impact of these deceptive tactics on older individuals. These vulnerabilities carry a heavy cost. Many older adults do not possess the digital literacy skills to protect themselves from financial or romance scams, misinformation regarding their health, or false information relating to politics and elections. 

Digital literacy is proven to work 

Enhancing the digital literacy skills of older people does work. A study published by Ryan Moore and Jeff Hancock of the Stanford SML demonstrates that a specifically designed educational module significantly bolstered their ability to discern true and false information (reference paper A digital media literacy intervention for older adults).

Collaborative efforts build digital strength 

Organizations historically serving older generations can play a crucial role in strengthening the digital strength of these groups by partnering with the Stanford Social Media Lab to  disseminate evidence-based, digital literacy tools. This collaborative effort aligns with the broader goal of mitigating the impact of misinformation on the well-being of older populations while fostering a more informed and empowered aging community. 

Diverse Communities 

Building reliable access to accurate information 

While misinformation causes harm across society, communities of color are being specifically  targeted. False narratives have led to well documented, adverse consequences for communities of color in both the health care and democracy realms (reference paper Designing misinformation interventions for all).

Misinformation heightens inequalities 

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color) communities have pre-existing disparities in resources across many domains. Manipulated information can worsen these inequalities, creating a heightened risk for receiving inaccurate information regarding vaccines or other health care interventions. False information regarding political issues can also lead to decreased participation in the election process.  

Partnerships for digital literacy empower these groups 

It is crucial to involve community leaders from BIPOC groups in the development and implementation of programs to address misinformation. The Stanford Social Media Lab has collaborated with members of AAPI, Black, Latino, and Native American groups to understand their particular concerns and is eager to develop ongoing partnerships to create and disseminate digital literacy tools that will support the distinctive needs of these communities.


Modern adolescence is marked by an immersion in digital life and interactions mediated by Technology. For adolescents, critically evaluating online content becomes particularly  challenging when presented with a continuous stream of text messages, images, and short  videos, which are curated and personalized by opaque algorithms. The quality and credibility of their online content varies widely, from trustworthy information to misinformation, conspiracy  theories, and rumors.  

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Specific industry ecosystems and their digital domains stand to gain considerably by employing digital tools that benefit their constituencies while strengthening society. We’re here to help military veterans, health care, and financial services with tools that are proven effective.

Military Veterans 

Serving those who have served to help battle false narratives 

Like other vulnerable groups, US military veterans are targeted by entities that spread misinformation. In addition to their military service, there are several specific factors that may heighten their susceptibility to falsehoods, such as older age, less formal education, and living in rural settings. Some evidence also suggests that loss of the camaraderie after discharge may leave individuals isolated and vulnerable. The main domains in which members of this group are targeted are financial scams, romance scams, and misinformation about democracy. 

The consequences of the targeting of veterans comes at the cost to the impacted individuals, but also by their overrepresentation in anti-democracy actions and anti-government groups. 

Safeguarding our veterans safeguards our society 

Acquiring digital literacy skills can help enable our veterans to safeguard their own health and finances. Stanford’s Social Media Lab has the knowledge and expertise to partner with veteran groups, the military, and the Veterans Administration to co-create effective digital literacy programs to meet the needs of this specific population.


Partnering with patients improves lives and trust in health care 

The best health care outcomes are based on mutual trust between patients and providers. The recent explosion of misinformation undermines this trust and has negatively affected medical care through delays in testing, diagnosis, and treatment of medical issues. Health care providers also suffer from the consequences of misinformation. Burnout rates for clinicians are skyrocketing, as they must not only address the usual medical needs of their patients, but also spend additional time educating and working to reverse deeply held patient beliefs based on low-quality or manipulated health data. 

Health care systems can decrease patient vulnerability 

While health care systems have been leaders in delivering accurate and timely health information, a shift in focus is needed. Health care systems can also decrease their patients’ vulnerability to misinformation by introducing skills for improved information gathering and analysis. 

  • Instead of racing to debunk each medical “myth,” hospitals can educate patients on how to more reliably vet the veracity of information. 
  • Digital literacy tools are an additional line of defense against false and misleading information and, importantly, also help patients continue to trust information that is accurate. 
  • By providing and encouraging access to digital literacy tools, health care providers can rebuild trust with their patients. 

Strategic partnerships leverage resources - and results 

A powerful approach to this big, wicked problem is forming strategic partnerships with nonmedical academicians, journalists, and health care systems. The researchers at the Stanford Social Media Lab (SML) understand the science of manipulated information: 

  • Cross-disciplinary teams can cut across established silos and assist in developing evidence-based digital literacy content that is relevant and focused for specific populations. 
  • The unique aspects of health care systems can be identified and utilized to design effective training that is delivered by the right people, at the right time, in the right place.
  • Health care systems can support their patients and front-line clinicians by partnering with the SML and using their well-developed infrastructure to co-create and disseminate materials to scale digital literacy.


Help your customers avoid scams and strengthen trust in your institution 

While anyone can fall prey to an online fraud, vulnerable populations such as older adults, minorities, and other groups are increasingly targeted by financial scams and misinformation. These targeted groups, who may be less proficient in utilizing technology, often struggle to discern when solicitations for financial assistance, promises of miracle products, or the allure of online romantic relationships originate from malicious sources. 

Digital literacy is a crucial defense 

Strengthening digital literacy becomes a crucial defense, equipping individuals with the tools to identify the veracity of information and reject false entreaties. Financial institutions, which are designed to help customers achieve their financial goals, find their mission undermined by the prevalence of misinformation. 

Financial institutions can create a big impact 

Financial institutions, with well-established infrastructure, can play a pivotal role in supporting their clients by engaging in the creation and dissemination of materials on digital literacy at scale. This goes beyond the existing focus on security and passwords. It requires a direct educational approach to combat financial scams by empowering individuals with the skills to discern and navigate the complex landscape of financial misinformation. 

Partnerships are about dollars and sense 

Addressing this multifaceted and costly challenge requires strategic partnerships. Researchers at the Stanford Social Media Lab (SML) possess a deep understanding of the science of misinformation and have developed evidence-based digital literacy content tailored for specific vulnerable populations, including the older adults, young people, and diverse communities. 

By fostering partnerships and prioritizing the dissemination of targeted digital literacy content, financial institutions can contribute significantly to building the resilience of their clients against financial scams. This collaborative effort aligns with the broader goal of creating a more informed and empowered society, where individuals are equipped to make sound decisions and protect themselves from the pervasive threat of misinformation in the financial realm.