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Disinfo Update 22/11/2018

Dr. Evil

On 18 December, the next DisinfoLab will feature Mieje Arentze from Drog, a research and media-literacy initiative that will teach you how to create your very own fake-news. So, build your army of online trolls and spread conspiracies to influence the public debate and contemplate the dangerous implications disinformation can have on your daily life and society as a whole!

Facebook Season 3 Episode 6 : Thanksgiving

Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s outgoing head of communications and policy, took responsibility for hiring Definers Public Affairs in a blog post on the eve of the US Thanksgiving holiday. He admitted mandating the firm to investigate “Freedom from Facebook” campaign financing by George Soros. The whole company policy towards external consulting firms will be reviewed he claims.

An international “Grand Committee” of national parliaments (UK, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Irland, Brasil, Latvia and Singapour), called for Mark Zuckerberg to appear in an audition in London on November 27. Zuckerberg turned down the request, but Policy VP Richard Allan will go. In reply, the Parliament has used its legal powers to seize internal Facebook documents alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

This call happens just when the LSE Commission on Truth, Trust and Technology, a group made up of British MPs, academics and industry leaders, proposed the Government should hand fresh powers to a new observation body in the UK, rather than existing regulators such as Ofcom and the Information Commissioner.

Journalists: one for all, all for one

In an age of misinformation, is collaboration the future of journalism? Former Vice CTO Jesse Knight advocates for media to consolidate a common publishing platform, and thus gain independence from Google and social media platforms. First Draft also calls for support of sustainable newsroom collaborations and verification projects. Verification project “Comprova” in Brazil is a concrete example of such cooperation. In the context of Brazilian elections, partners worked on debunking rumors and suspicious content on social media and on WhatsApp.

Good bots / Bad bots?

Speaking of Whatsapp, Witness, an NGO working on teaching people to use video to testify human rights abuses, issued a series of recommendations on regulating content on Whatsapp. For example, a database of debunked messages that allows reverse image search or easier ways to block WhatsApp direct marketing services

Good news, such reverse databases already exists for Twitter. In the lead up to last month’s election in Brazil, Aos Fatos built a Twitter bot that automatically corrects people who share fake news stories. Called Fátima, the automated account leverages AI to scan Twitter for URLs that match fact checks in Aos Fatos’ database of articles. Then, the bot replies to the Twitter user with a link to the fact check. Bots spread a lot of fakery, but they can also debunk it.


What to read, watch and listen to this week:


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Disinfo update – 19/11/2018

Oops I did it again!

New York Times revealed how Facebook, when trying to fight through the crisis, hired a public affairs company missioned to write articles criticizing tech competitors while downplaying the impact of Russia’s misinformation campaign on the platform, and pushing the idea that George Soros was behind a growing anti-Facebook movement. Facebook replied to inaccuracies in a blogpost and President of Open Society Foundation, Patrick Gaspard, addressed a letter to Mark Zuckerberg. As scandals accumulate on Facebook, disinformation researchers, just as citizens start to get out of patience says Nina Jancowicz.

A Message from Paris

Last week was a busy week in Paris. The city was hosting the internet governance forum (IGF), organised by the United Nations. This year, the information disorders issues took a significant part in the debate on media and content. We can only welcome the fact that overall, all debates promoted an active multi-stakeholder collaboration in this field. In the meantime was held the Paris peace forum, a new annual event that gathers all actors of global governance. On that occasion , 7 heads of State (among them Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron) signed an opinion committing to support Reporters Without Borders work of the International Information and Democracy Commission.

Fake can kill

Disinformation can fuel ethnic violence. After information shared on Whatsapp have caused lynching in India (read here the summary of our last webinar about disinformation in India), incendiary images shared on Facebook have contributed to ethnic violence in Plateau state in Nigeria. Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners in the country have committed just four full-time fact checkers to review false information, on a platform used by 24 million Nigerians. Read the very well documented story on BBC news. Similar issue was raised at IGF by journalist Ishara Danasekar in Sri Lanka.


What to read, watch and listen to this week:


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Disinfo Update 12/11/2018

Midterm fakes

Midterms polarized results mirror a polarized debate between democrats and republicans, with rumours of fraud and voters suppression spread by both camps. But that was not the only disinformation, the New York Times called on its readers to share examples of election-related misinformation. In all, more than 4,000 examples of misinformation were submitted. Some were even spread by candidates themselves, as the “jobs not mobs” slogan, which started out as a meme, then turned into a political slogan.

More tapas?

Spain and Russia have agreed on a disinformation forum to tackle fake-news in Catalonia.

Web Summit: the internet father and the sons of anarchy

Last week, the tech community held its major world conference: The Web Summit. Father of the internet Tim Berners-Lee announced a “contract for the web”, setting ethical standards around privacy and open access to the internet. Speaking of ethics, European commissioner Vera Jourova suggested an Hippocrat oath for tech designers in order to put an end to “the online anarchy around elections”. As they feel the change coming, big techs seem to have joined the advocacy for regulation, yet Mark Scott from Politico warns politicians not to get fooled… 

Metadata crafts

MIT technology review present two startups using algorithms to track when images are edited, from the moment they’re taken. Typically, pictures online contain metadata that can be manipulated. Data & Society Research Affiliate Amelia Acker’s analyzes how bad actors manipulate metadata to create effective disinformation campaigns, and provides tips for researchers and technology companies trying to spot this “data craft.” Meanwhile, InVid image fact-checking plug-in is now used by 7000 people.


To read this week:
Reporters without borders published its “International Declaration on Information and Democracy, which establishes democratic guarantees for the global information and communication space.
“Belief in Fake News is Associated with Delusionality, Dogmatism, Religious Fundamentalism, and Reduced Analytic Thinking” in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.
 UNDP published the first publicly available study that analyses how social media is used by al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and ISIL to contribute to radicalisation in seven African countries.

Mark your calendar

November 12 @ Paris — Hackathon : Relever les défis des troubles informationnels à l’ère numérique
November 29 @ Pullman Riga Oldtown — “Disinformation and Fake news challenge to democracy” event hosted by civil society organisation “ManaBalss”, part of a EC supported project “Smart eDemocracy Against Fake News (SMARTeD)”
December 3 @ Berlin  —  News Impact Summit with @GoogleNewsInit  — December 6 @ Oxford — Book launch: Journalism, ‘Fake News’ & Disinformation