Abortion Misinformation, Deepfakes, Environmental Racism: RAND Weekly Recap

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July 8, 2022

This week, we discuss the “chaotic information environment” after the repeal of Roe v. Wade; the threat of deepfakes; how redlining still affects U.S. communities; RAND expert Dara Massicot's thoughts on Russia and the war in Ukraine; the importance of partnerships between community colleges and employers; and a tool that helps military decisionmakers forecast demand for U.S. ground forces.

A Planned Parenthood clinic manager prepares her staff for the enactment of a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, Jacksonville, Florida, March 16, 2022, photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

A Planned Parenthood clinic manager prepares her staff for the enactment of Florida's 24-hour abortion waiting period, March 16, 2022

Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Countering Abortion Misinformation in a Post-Roe World

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has created a chaotic information environment for patients and providers. Individuals must quickly understand a variety of regulations—which can differ from state to state—that may influence if, how, when, and where they can obtain an abortion.

And as the debate over abortion rights moves to the states, the struggle for information influence will likely intensify, complicating an issue that is already a “minefield of medical misinformation,” says RAND's Julia Rollison. Providers and potential patients will need clear, trustworthy, up-to-date guidance—and to be protected from bad information.

Rollison outlines four ways that key stakeholders could help:

  • States could make countering misinformation part of their plans to help ensure access to reproductive health care.
  • Health organizations that track state and federal policies and support community education about abortion could scale up their work, but they will likely need more funding to do so.
  • Technology companies could proactively monitor and remove false or misleading medical claims about abortion. They can also take steps to protect the privacy of those seeking abortion information online.
  • Large employers and health insurers could help counter misinformation by being transparent about abortion benefits and coverage policies for employees.

Such efforts could go a long way to stopping the spread of misinformation—and, in some cases, deliberate disinformation—about abortions. “If left unchecked, misinformation could become a major barrier to individuals trying to navigate their way to safe, legal, and quality reproductive care,” Rollison says.

A green wireframe model covers an actor's lower face during the creation of a synthetic facial reanimation video, aka a deepfake, in London, Britain, February 12, 2019, photo by Reuters TV

A green wireframe model covers an actor's face during the creation of a deepfake, in London, February 12, 2019

Photo by Reuters TV

Deepfakes: Is Disinformation Getting an Upgrade?

Deepfakes are highly realistic, synthetically altered videos in which the depicted face or body has been modified to appear as someone or something else. What are the risks associated with deepfakes? “The answer is limited only by one's imagination,” says RAND researcher Todd Helmus. In a new paper, he breaks down the threat of deepfakes and other AI-generated fake content, such as voice cloning and generative text, and provides recommendations for how to address this challenge.

Aerial map image by Google Earth

Image by Google Earth

Environmental Racism: Historic Redlining Still Affects Communities

Sooty air pollution. Dangerous drinking water. Smothering summer heat. Environmental hazards have persisted for decades in historically redlined communities. RAND researchers recently developed an interactive tool that examines this problem. What makes the tool unique? It doesn't just show where the disadvantaged communities are; it shows where communities that were specifically disadvantaged by government policy are. The findings may be useful to community organizers and local leaders who are pushing for change.

Russian weapons captured by Ukrainian forces seen in front of St. Michael's Monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 31, 2022, photo by Ulf Mauder/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP

Russian weapons captured by Ukrainian forces seen in front of St. Michael's Monastery in Kyiv, May 31, 2022

Photo by Ulf Mauder/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP

Q&A: Dara Massicot on Russia's Ambitions and the War in Ukraine

As an expert on Russian military strategy, RAND's Dara Massicot was documenting Moscow's evolving behavior toward Ukraine long before the war. Today, she continues to follow the conflict closely. In a new Q&A on The RAND Blog, Massicot discusses her background, provides insights into Russia's strategy, and discusses the big picture of Russian military capabilities: “They're not—they were never—weak or irrelevant. But nor are they the Soviet war machine anymore,” she says.

People meeting in a career counseling office, photo by BullRun/Adobe Stock

Photo by BullRun/Adobe Stock

Strengthening Partnerships Between Community Colleges and Employers

Community colleges are key to the U.S. workforce, producing workers with skills that employers need while enhancing economic mobility for students. But these schools may struggle to match students to jobs. A new RAND study finds that developing partnerships between community colleges and local employers may help. Such partnerships can create more internship opportunities for students and provide colleges with up-to-date information on workforce needs and job availability.

A young programmer working late at night, photo by gorodenkoff/Getty Images

U.S. soldiers fire at targets during a training exercise at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Grafenwoehr, Germany, January 16, 2020

Photo by Cpl. Tomarius Roberts/U.S. Army

Forecasting Demand for U.S. Ground Forces

Military planners need tools to help guide decisions about building, shaping, and preparing U.S. forces for the missions that they are most likely to encounter over the next 20 years. RAND researchers created such a tool by modeling thousands of potential future scenarios. The tool allows users to modify assumptions about U.S. policy decisions and the global order, and then see a range of possible outcomes, such as the number of interstate wars, U.S. military interventions, and troops needed for military interventions.

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