First Draft News




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $3,837,384
Expenses: $2,209,807
Assets: $2,116,681


Political news activism





Executive Director:

Claire Wardle

Contact InfluenceWatch with suggested edits or tips for additional profiles.

First Draft News was a collective of left-wing media organizations that pushed for news publications to implement guidelines for sourcing and presenting information to combat so-called “misinformation.” Founded in 2015, the collective included tech giant Google and the foreign-affairs publication Bellingcat. First Draft shut down in 2022 and handed over its initiatives to Brown University, which incorporated them into its Information Futures Lab. 1

First Draft has received financial backing from some of the largest left-of-center grantmaking entities in the United States, including the Open Society Foundations of billionaire activist financier George Soros and the personal philanthropic organization of billionaire businessman Craig Newmark. First Draft received a significant portion of this funding to promote left-of-center narratives during  and after the 2020 presidential election. 2

Major Projects

One of First Draft’s main initiatives was CrossCheck, which aimed to bring together journalists and influencers from a given country or region to identify developing news stories and formulate narratives around them with the stated goal of countering alleged misinformation. First Draft also offered media figures training and resources on how to respond to breaking news and suppress perceived information “threats” on the Internet. 3 Its mid-2021 report claimed that in the prior three months, First Draft received more than 245,000 website visitors, trained more than 3,700 people on several continents, and was involved with major left-of-center organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation. 4

According to documents released by Twitter chief executive officer Elon Musk in December 2022 as part of the Twitter Files, representatives of the organization participated in one such rehearsal event in September 2020: the hypothetical scenario involved a leak of documents with evidence of potentially unethical business dealings by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Participants in the exercise, including top social media executives, developed ways to control the impact of the leak and shape the narrative both in the news and on social media. The following month, similar allegations came out publicly when the New York Post and other sources published files and communications from a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden that suggested improper financial and personal activities within the Biden family. Twitter went on to censor the initial story despite the fact that Twitter head of security Yoel Roth, who had also participated in the planning event, privately admitted at the time that “it isn’t clearly violative of our Hacked Materials Policy, nor is it clearly in violation of anything else.” 5

In April 2023, former Central Intelligence Agency deputy director Michael Morrell testified to Congress that more than 50 intelligence agency officials came together during the 2020 presidential campaign to issue a statement attacking the credibility of the Hunter Biden story and suggesting that it was the result of a Russian government propaganda operation. In his testimony, Morrell admitted that the decision to publish the statement was the result of discussions with the campaign of then-Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden. First Draft, which participated in the inter-organizational narrative formation rehearsal that immediately preceded the story’s publication and the ensuing campaign to discredit it, did not respond to requests for comment from conservative media outlet the Daily Caller regarding Morrell’s admission.6 7

In May 2023, journalist Matt Taibbi, who had previously covered the release of the Twitter Files, reported that First Draft director Claire Wardle had been included in email conversations with defense and intelligence officials throughout the development of the Hunter Biden story. Taibbi also noted that Stefanie Friedhoff, the co-founder of First Draft’s successor organization, the Information Futures Lab, had gone on to join the COVID-19 Response Team in the Biden administration, and that First Draft had previously participated in a campaign aimed at “building vaccine demand” through pro-vaccine messaging.8

First Draft published a number of articles with research findings to support its push for top-down narrative control by news sources, social media platforms, and government agencies. These included reports targeting skepticism of COVID-19 vaccination, including vaccine hesitancy within racial minority groups, as well as advice on countering objections to environmentalist policies and concerns about ballot integrity during the 2020 election cycle. First Draft reports frequently advised various methods of suppressing dissenting views which the organization deemed to be “misinformation.” 9

Information Futures Lab

Information Futures Lab was launched in 2022 at Brown University to build a counter-misinformation infrastructure for academics, health officials, and media figures. Its concerns tend to prioritize left-of-center issues, such as gun violence and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. It is co-led by First Draft founder Claire Wardle and includes First Draft as one of its initiatives. 10

Financial Backers

The Google News Initiative, which was a founding partner of First Draft, also helped fund the collective’s project to influence narratives surrounding the 2020 presidential election and shut down concerns about alleged inconsistencies in the results. First Draft also received significant support from the Craig Newmark Foundation — named after its founder, the creator of online marketplace Craigslist — which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to suppress right-of-center ideas in the media and oppose Republican Party candidates. 11 12

Other liberal grantmaking organizations that have supported First Draft, including the collective’s efforts during the 2020 election cycle, include the Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic entity within the Soros Network, which has also funded other left-wing narrative formation projects such as Media Matters for America; the Ford Foundation, once the largest philanthropic institution in the United States and a continuing major force behind the left-wing political, economic, and cultural agenda; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has funneled more than $100 million to a wide variety of liberal journalism projects and media organizations; the Democracy Fund, a project of the Democracy Alliance network of prominent liberal donors, which has also backed Media Matters as well as New Media Ventures, which funds informational, commentary, and networking platforms favored by the left; and the Media Democracy Fund (unrelated to the above) which promotes the work of left-leaning journalists and publications in addition to pushing for greater government regulation of media and the internet. 13


Claire Wardle was the founder of First Draft. She previously worked with Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. She also worked as the head of social media at the United Nations Refugee Agency and oversaw social media training for British Broadcasting Corporation staff. She co-founded and now leads the Information Futures Lab, under which First Draft’s operations now exist. 14

Notable Collaborators

Craig Silverman is the former media editor of leading liberal commentary and entertainment site BuzzFeed News. He went on to join the left-leaning investigative journalism organization ProPublica. Silverman claims to be “one of the world’s leading experts” on what he considers to be misleading information online. 15 16

Eliot Higgins is the founder of the world affairs publication Bellingcat, which claims to conduct independent investigations based on open-source intelligence. 17

Mark Little is a former employee of social media giant Twitter who has worked on several self-proclaimed anti-misinformation initiatives. In November 2020, he participated in a discussion hosted by the World Economic Forum, the influential global alliance of government, nonprofit, and private sector leaders which generated controversy during the COVID-19 pandemic for calling for a so-called “Great Reset” of the world economy. During the discussion, Little compared the spread of what he considered to be misinformation to “a global health crisis” and called on social media platforms to suppress criticism of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic response. 18


In 2020, First Draft received more than $3.7 million, nearly its entire $3.8 million revenue, in contributions from its backers. The organization’s expenses totaled just over $2.2 million. Its revenue was about four times its 2019 revenue of $960,000. 19


  1.  “About.” First Draft. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  2. “First Draft launches US election tools to help tackle misinformation in run-up to November 3.” First Draft. October 9, 2020. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  3. “Tackling.” First Draft. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  4. First Draft News, Quarter 2 2021 Impact Report, Accessed January 14, 2023.
  5. Michael Shellenberger. “Twitter Files: Part 7.” Twitter. December 19, 2022. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  6. Alexa Schwerha. “Disinformation ‘Experts’ Are Keeping Quiet After Latest Twist In Hunter Biden Laptop Scandal.” Daily Caller. April 28, 2023. Accessed May 21, 2023.
  7. Michael Shellenberger. “Twitter Files: Part 7.” Twitter. December 19, 2022. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  8. Matt Taibbi et al. “Report on the Censorship-Industrial Complex: The Top 50 Organizations to Know.” Racket News. May 10, 2023. Accessed May 21, 2023.
  9. “Research.” First Draft. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  10. Information Futures Lab. “Brown School of Public Health launches new Lab to combat misinformation, data deficits, outdated communication practices—and to catalyze innovation.” Brown University. June 14, 2022. Accessed January 14, 2023.
  11. “About.” First Draft. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  12. “First Draft launches US election tools to help tackle misinformation in run-up to November 3.” First Draft. October 9, 2020. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  13. “First Draft launches US election tools to help tackle misinformation in run-up to November 3.” First Draft. October 9, 2020. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  14. “About.” Dr. Claire Wardle. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  15. “About.” First Draft. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  16. “About.” Craig Silverman. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  17. “About.” First Draft. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  18. Robin Pomeroy, Alexander Court. “There’s no vaccine for the infodemic—so how can we combat the virus of misinformation?” World Economic Forum. November 26, 2020. Accessed January 11, 2023.
  19. “First Draft News Inc.” ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer. Accessed January 11, 2023.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 2020

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form 990 $3,837,384 $2,209,807 $2,116,681 $30,400 N $3,719,559 $100,000 $17,825 $285,076
    2019 Dec Form 990 $960,421 $501,717 $638,822 $180,118 N $955,000 $4,000 $1,421 $177,164 PDF

    First Draft News

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