Hi, I’m Melissa Ryan. I help people, policymakers, and institutions combat online toxicity and extremism. (AKA trolls, the so-called alt-right, disinformation, and fake news.)
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.
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
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Talk info: conference, date, etc
"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."
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.”"
“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"
"Don't forget the 'why?' Why are you posting to Facebook? Why are you tweeting? It's important to always remember the goal."
“Last Thanksgiving, I wasn’t online all day and then I saw that everyone was talking about what they were thankful for, and I hadn’t,” said Melissa Ryan, a director of client services at Trilogy Interactive, a digital strategy firm based in Washington. “I had this sense of guilt, like I should be posting about my gratitude.” After all, Ms. Ryan always posts on National Coffee Day (“I drink a lot of coffee”). And as a “Star Wars” fan, May the Force Be With You Day on May 4 is a big deal. (“For normal people, it’s ‘Star Wars’ Day, that’s funny. But I love ‘Star Wars’ and have a lot of friends who love ‘Star Wars.’”)
"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."
Digital staffers are particularly vulnerable to scrutiny, because they likely come with a large archive of social media posts, said Melissa Ryan, a digital strategist for Trilogy Interactive, a progressive communications agency. At the same time, she said, a staff member’s personal brand can be an asset to a campaign if it draws a large number of social media users to the candidate. “I’d be much more nervous about hiring a digital staffer that had less than 500 followers than someone who had a few questionable tweets,” Ms. Ryan said.
Melissa Ryan has spent more than a decade working at the intersection of politics, media, culture, and technology. Today, she uses her expertise to help people, policymakers and institutions combat disinformation, extremism and online toxicity as the CEO and Chief Strategist of CARD Strategies.
Melissa became fascinated with extremism and disinformation during the 2016 U.S. elections, as she watched once-fringe extremist networks rise to prominence as they were amplified by mainstream candidates and media. She was among the first progressives to chronicle the rise of the alt-right online when she launched Ctrl Alt-Right Delete shortly after the election, which has since grown to more than 16,000 weekly readers.
Ryan’s expertise is 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 use digital strategy to engage voters.
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 was honored in 2014 with a Campaigns & Elections Rising Star award and has spoken at top conferences and events for Netroots Nation, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the New York Daily News Innovation Lab, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.