Chris Evans hopes to tackle spread of misinformation about US politics through civic engagement app

Last month, Chris Evans launched an initiative called A Starting Point, featuring short videos from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress and other US politicians sharing perspectives on policy issues.

The Associated Press August 14, 2020 09:24:02 IST
Chris Evans hopes to tackle spread of misinformation about US politics through civic engagement app

Chris Evans became the most politically prickly Avenger a few years back with withering tweets about President Donald Trump and his Republican supporters.

But the Captain America actor is staying relatively quiet during this presidential campaign. He wants to amplify the voices of elected officials instead.

Last month, Evans launched a civic engagement app and website called A Starting Point, featuring short videos from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress and other US politicians sharing perspectives on policy issues.

With regular visits to Capitol Hill, Evans built the site over the course of two years alongside tech entrepreneur Joe Kiani and actor-producer Mark Kassen, a longtime friend. They hope to keep it going long after the November election.

Chris Evans hopes to tackle spread of misinformation about US politics through civic engagement app

Chris Evans

“This was born out of the same reason I do what I do on Twitter. You want to try and help. You want to try and use the platform that you’ve been given the right way,” Evans said. “And this felt like it could cast the widest net because it actually removed my personal politics and just tried to offer information to people who may want to participate.”

The site is divided into three sections. One includes three Republicans and three Democrats answering questions about broad long-term issues like immigration, climate change, student debt and gerrymandering. The second allows politicians to upload solo messages about hot topics like Trump’s executive orders or TikTok ban. And a “counterpoints” section highlights moderated interparty debates: Should schools reopen during the pandemic? Should the government require mail-in voting?

The site is intended to educate, not advocate, Evans says. It’s built without incentives toward extremes. There are no view counters, like or dislike buttons, or comments sections. Videos in the “Starting Points” section are fact-checked by an outside group.

“The reason for doing this site is to combat the proliferation of misinformation,” Evans said in an interview from his home in Boston. “A lot of the misinformation out there comes from individuals who have created these platforms and they pull snippets of information to places and create a narrative. And it’s a lot of conjecture. And you hope that the elected officials who are in office are the ones trying to cut through that.”

Evans, whose uncle served in Congress as a Democrat for a decade ending last year, says he and Kassen had to push hard to convince Republicans to participate. The 39-year-old actor had thrilled liberals early in Trump’s term, calling the president “Biff” and a “meatball.”

Kassen said Evans’ reputation left the pair with “a hill to climb” as the pair visited offices around the Capitol pitching their vision of an impartial online venue: “Our hard work and his charm allowed us to keep going. But for sure, there was a lot of bias against us because of that.”

Evans says he’s been pleased to see Republicans uploading more “daily points” videos to the site than Democrats in recent weeks.

As he prepares to potentially film a Netflix spy movie in January, the self-described “news junkie” says he’s tuned out the presidential campaign temporarily to focus on A Starting Point. His social media is mostly benign these days.

“It’s a measure of efficacy. How can you be of most good, of most service?” Evans said. “This site feels to me that it could have a broader impact than anything I could do on my individual Twitter.”

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