Hi, I’m Melissa Ryan. I help people, policymakers, and institutions combat online toxicity and extremism. (AKA trolls, far-right extremists, disinformation, and fake news.)
I run CARD Strategies, a boutique consulting firm that works with non-profits and advocacy groups. I also write Ctrl Alt-Right Delete, a weekly newsletter, that reaches more than 16,000 readers. I’ve also written commentary for outlets like Buzzfeed News, Refinery29, and NowThis.
Previously I was a digital strategist for Democratic campaigns and progressive causes. I worked with influencers and online communities to raise money, mobilize activists, drive online conversations and shape media narratives. My familiarity with this space gives me a unique insight into how trolls and extremists organize.
Interested in hiring me to consult, train, or speak? Let’s talk!
Want to learn more about me? Read my full bio.
I speak at conferences, universities, progressive groups, and select corporate settings. Recent engagements include The NY Daily News Innovation Lab, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The American Constitution Society, and Pepperdine University.
I’m also available for trainings. Currently, I have a 45-minute and a 90-minute module on information warfare.
Want to book me for your event? Get in touch.
Why Democracy Requires Public Education
SXSW EDU, Austin Texas, March 7, 2023
Solving the Climate Crisis Starts With Combatting Disinformation
Netroots Nation, Pittsburgh PA, August 18, 2022
Congress is an Unstable Workplace
Netroots Nation, October 8, 2021
Disinformation in the 2020 Campaign: Who's Behind It? (It's Not Just Russia)
Netroots Nation, August 15, 2020
Science Journalism in an Age of Disinformation
Environmental Defense Fund Annual Conference, June 2020
Threats to Social Movements: the Rise of Digital Authoritarianism and Oligopolies
RightsCon, July 29, 2020
The U.S. Right and the Rise of Authoritarianism Around the World
Netroots Nation, Philadelphia PA. July 12, 2019
The Future of US Politics: Looking Ahead to 2020
University of Iowa, Public Policy Center, March 27, 2019
Strategy Discussion: Preparing for Opposition Tactics
Counting for Democracy, Census and Redistricting Conference, Washington DC, December 13, 2018
Going Global: Let’s build a transnational coalition to fight online toxicity and extremism
Mozfest, London, UK, October 27, 2018
Crisis Scenario: You're the target of disinformation. Now what?
MisinfoCon London, October 24, 2018
Fighting Back Against Russian Active Measures
Netroots Nation, New Orleans LA, August 4, 2018
How Online Harassment is Ruining Democracy
Netroots Nation, New Orleans LA, August 3, 2018
Fake News Horror Show! Opening Keynote Panel
Fake News Horror Show, NYC Media Lab, June 7, 2018
Culture and its Discontents: A Public Conversation
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, April 6-7
Fake News: 2016 was a cakewalk. Here’s what’s coming in ‘18 and ’20, and how you can prepare your clients
Reed Awards, Charleston South Carolina, February 27, 2018
Fake News, Social Media, and Polling
2018 UAW National CAP Conference, Washington DC, February 6, 2018
American Constitution Society National Lawyer Convening
Milwaukee Wisconsin, October 21, 2017
How to Fight the Alt-Right
Democratic Women of Westport, September 17, 2017
Combating Fake News Online
Netroots Nation, August 12, 2017, Atlanta Georgia
We Can Solve The Fake News Problem
Daily News Innovation Lab, February 8, 2017
Keynote: From Kissing Babies to Liking Posts: How Social Media has Changed the American Campaign
Technology and Civic Engagement 2016, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, October 14, 2016
Communications MythBusters: Best Practices vs. Bad Advice
Non Profit Technology Conference, March 25, 2016
Getting it Right in 2015
2015 Reed Awards, February 18, 2016
What Crowdfunding Can Do for Your Campaign or Organization
Art of Political Campaigning, July 18, 2015
How to Write a Fundraising Email
CampaignTech East, April 22, 2015
Running Digital Campaigns: What's Changed and What's Still Working?
Netroots Nation, July 19, 2014
The Organizing Edge: Online Predictions for the 2016 Elections
Netroots Nation, July 19, 2014
Screwing with People Fast: Rapid Response Videos in Campaigns
Netroots Nation, June 22, 2013
Social Media and Labor Activism
AFGE Editors Association Conference, February 17, 2012 VIDEO
Organizing the Occupation
New Organizing Institute at University of Wisconsin May 12, 2011
Title of talk
Talk info: conference, date, etc
"Substack's position on Nazis only makes sense if you ignore the last eight years of world events and tech policy debates," Melissa Ryan, the CEO of Card Strategies, an expert on far-right extremism, and one of the protest letter's signatories told me. "We know from experience that these choices have dangerous, sometimes deadly consequences."
"Thanks to Tucker Carlson, this kind of dreck that you would normally only see on far-right forums and online spaces had a prime-time audience on cable news every night."
"It will be easier than ever to impersonate someone and create a persona of having authority because anyone can pay and pretend to be someone who hasn’t already claimed their handle, said Melissa Ryan, founder of CARD Strategies"
"Conspiracy is a permanent part of our political and cultural discourse now," Ryan said. "I think you can say that Alex Jones was an innovator in that."
“Putin has invested heavily in sowing discord” and found an ally in Mr. Trump, said Melissa Ryan, the chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation. “Anyone who studies disinformation or the far right has seen the influence of Putin’s investment take hold.”
Melissa Ryan, author of the Ctrl Alt Right Delete newsletter that tracks online extremism, called their use of the trial platform “desperation.” “Part of it is the addiction to the attention; part of it is the need to raise money to keep the grift going,” said Ryan, the CEO of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation. “And part of it is just knowing that our systems, whether you’re talking about American media or whether you’re talking about courtroom, just weren’t designed for this kind of stress and behavior.”
"These stop the steal protests are clearly building off the infrastructure from the reopen protests that we saw earlier in the year during the pandemic. And frankly, they're using the same strategy and infrastructure as the Tea Party back in 2009, 2010."
“Sadly, this wave of misinformation was predictable and inevitable,” said Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation.
"Facebook groups have been a continual problem for exposure to QAnon, and we’re seeing QAnon coming into other Facebook groups,” she said. “You saw them in the ‘reopen’ groups, you see them in the antivax groups, so Facebook groups are going to continue to be a problem until [Facebook] takes action as well.”
“It's becoming a strategy that the Trump administration is more and more comfortable using, and Twitter has to figure out if they're comfortable with their platform being used that way," Ryan said. "It's on Twitter to make that decision that they're not going to let their platform be used that way."
“It’s less of a barrier to entry to talk about child trafficking than it is to claim that every elite person in America is actually part of a massive pedophile ring,” Ryan said.
Ms. Ryan, the disinformation researcher, said Twitter is in “uncharted territory.” “You can predict pretty easily how Trump is going to respond,” she said. But with Twitter, “once the company enforces a policy, is it going to succumb to the blowback? Or is it going to stay the course? I think that’s the important thing to watch moving forward.”
“Twitter and Trump have been playing a game of chicken,” Ryan said. “It feels like they’ve both been moving toward this for a while.”
"If the coronavirus playbook were reapplied broadly, “you would see all the tech companies take a hard line on untrue content,” says Melissa Ryan, CEO of CARD Strategies, a consulting firm that researches misinformation. “They would be able to do it without political consideration.”"
“QAnon believers are running for office and in some cases winning, and that could happen in other democracies. It also inspires violent crime and terrorism, which is why, here in the U.S,, the FBI has named it as a domestic terrorism threat,” said Melissa Ryan, CEO of CARD Strategies, a firm that helps progressive organizations fight disinformation.
“One of the biggest misconceptions of the American left—and left-of-center movements in Europe as well—is the tendency to think of the far right as a nationalist movement,” says Melissa Ryan, who writes the Ctrl Alt-Right Delete newsletter for Hope Not Hate, the British anti-racist research group. “It’s actually the opposite. They operate internationally. They share best practices, they share funding streams. They’re internationalists claiming to be nationalists.”
“How many aspiring meme-makers do you think get the message that if you make this kind of content, you could be invited to the White House?” [Ryan] said.
“It’s an opportunity for Mueller to set the record straight,” Melissa Ryan, an online disinformation expert, tells Rolling Stone.
“At this point, given all we know about how extremists organize across platforms, there’s no excuse for Facebook,” Ryan said. “Facebook still sees this as a PR problem and not a human lives problem. They have to be shamed to enforce their own policies. Until they actually see this as a human-centered problem, they’re always going to be reacting instead of working to stop these things from happening.”
“So much of fake news that gets shared is really a values statement,” said Melissa Ryan, a digital strategist who has worked for Barack Obama and former Sen. Russ Feingold. “It almost doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, I think, particularly on the right.”
"After the election, Ryan left her high-profile job and set forth on an entirely new plan: become an expert on the alt-right. Starting with a newsletter aptly named “Ctrl Alt Right Delete,” Ryan’s gut told her that someone needed to understand this political movement that has so divided our country. And I’m betting on her and the Factual Democracy Project to be the ones to do it."
"It’s an old problem, said Melissa Ryan, an expert in digital campaigns, and one that encompasses many different types of information: conspiracy theories, hoaxes, propaganda, etc. People have been trying to “solve” it for many years, but in the age of social media, it has become militarized"
"Your first few years in the workplace are a time to learn your craft, practice, and get really good at what you do. I see a lot of career advice about networking and mentorship but not nearly enough about the importance of working hard to hone your skills. It's difficult to go back and unlearn bad habits so use this time to build your foundation of skills and self-discipline."
“Ugly and incendiary won every time,” including on Facebook, said Ms. Ryan, now an editor of the weekly newsletter Ctrl Alt Right Delete, which analyzes the alt-right movement.
As CEO and Chief Strategist at CARD Strategies, Melissa Ryan helps people, policymakers and institutions mitigate online harms and defend pluralistic democracy. Melissa combines deep expertise in disinformation, right-wing extremism and online toxicity, and more than fifteen years of leadership in politics and non-profit advocacy to help clients develop proactive and defensive campaigns against online and offline threats.
Melissa became fascinated with right-wing extremism and disinformation in 2016 when she saw fringe extremist networks platformed by mainstream candidates and then elevated by political media. Throughout the campaign cycle she tracked the growth and strategies of right-wing extremist networks and the spread of disinformation. She was among the first progressives to chronicle the rise of the rising far-right online. Her weekly newsletter, Ctrl Alt-Right Delete, reaches more than 15,000 subscribers.
Because of her unique expertise, Ryan is also sought out by journalists, politicians, leaders and everyday Americans who want to better understand how current events are shaped by social media and how political campaigns and advocacy organizations use digital strategy to engage voters. Ryan has been a featured speaker at top conferences and events including the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the New York Daily News Innovation Lab, Netroots Nation, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She has been quoted in dozens of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Reuters, Insider, NBC News and the 19th News.
Ryan’s career has spanned nearly the full history of digital politics. She began as a blogger, writing about local and state politics for Connecticut Local Politics. Her commentary about the 2006 Senate race between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman brought her into national political prominence, and where she formed the basis of her understanding of how online communities can affect real-world outcomes.
Ryan has been in the center of major progressive fights ever since. Her pioneering online fundraising work raised more than $5 million online for Senator Russ Feingold’s 2010 campaign. She played a key role in mobilizing protestors and framing the story of the #WIunion protests of 2011, helping create an international story about Scott Walker’s anti-union power grab.
As digital director at the New Organizing Institute, Ryan managed and drove the training program that created what The New York Times Magazine’s Robert Draper called “the yawning digital divide between the two parties.” During her tenure as digital director of EMILY’s List, Ryan’s team added more than 1 million supporters to the PAC’s online outreach. In 2012, she managed outreach to progressive media and influencers for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Ryan is proud to serve as a board member for Netroots Nation, the progressive movement’s largest annual conference.