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How nonpartisan data organization USAFacts empowers Americans with just the facts



Elections are scheduled across 64 countries this year, including in the U.S. in what’s bound to be a presidential rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

As nearly half of the world’s population exercises or prepares to exercise its right to vote, the spread of misinformation and disinformation, increasingly fueled by AI, is causing concern among government officials and business leaders. 

At Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies Summit last week, Poppy MacDonald, president of the nonpartisan data company USAFacts, shared how her organization is ensuring people are equipped with accurate, impartial, and easily accessible information.

Meeting people where they are

It’s no secret that some combination of cell phones, social media, and overstimulation has shortened people’s attention spans. But MacDonald said articles on USAFacts typically receive roughly two-and-a-half minutes of engagement time. The organization is focused on delivering data relevant to the questions people are actively seeking answers to today. An example MacDonald cited was a recent article offering insight into how much funding Israel receives from the U.S. government. 

Since launching in 2017, over 90 million people have visited USAFacts’ website, MacDonald said, and 250,000 people subscribe to the organization’s newsletter. But that doesn’t mean USAFacts isn’t on social media.

@usafacts.org

Follow to stay informed about data that impacts you! #childcare #motherhood #parentsoftiktok #daycare #usa #america #data #factsyoudidntknow #nowyouknow #fyi #dyk #explained #explain #foryourpage #fyp

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“We are going to over 70 sources of federal government data and building data pipelines [and] automatically updating that data,” MacDonald said. “On top of that, we take that data, we visualize it, we write content, we create posts for social media that really are looking at what can government data tell us about how this country is doing and really grounding it in the numbers.”

Using AI as a “co-intelligence model”

We’ve seen how AI’s capabilities are already being abused in political contexts. Earlier this year, a fake robocall imitating the voice of President Biden told New Hampshire voters to stay home before the state’s primary. MacDonald doesn’t view the AI as fully good or bad. Rather, she believes the technology can assist USAFacts as a “co-intelligence model” capable of expediting data cleaning and sorting. 

“We are really experimenting with not only how it can help make that process faster, but also how it can help us, through LLMs, give really relevant data and information back to people who come to our site,” she said.

She hopes the technology can be used “to deliver individual information based on where someone’s located in the country or based on their demographics,” e.g. a parent wanting to learn more about how the school their children attend serves its students.  

Working on behalf of citizens

Although USAFacts has established programs such as Data Skills for Congress, a partnership between the organization, Goldman Sachs, and University of California, Berkeley, the company’s primary goal is to provide information to citizens, which can be challenging and time-consuming. 

“It blows my mind that there are 90,000 government entities in the United States of America, and there are no standards for what data should be collected, when it should be collected or how it should be reported,” MacDonald said.

When USAFacts asked the IRS to send its data, for example, the agency did so on CDs. 

“Think about an average citizen, let alone a [staffer] having the ability to download that CD, standardize it, and sort it so that it could be used,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of effort. And we are happy to be able to dedicate resources to doing that on behalf of citizens.” 



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