Disinfo Update – 6/12/2018

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Facebook: the empty chair

Last Tuesday certainly wasn’t a good day for Richard Allen, Facebook VP for Policy. As Zuckerberg refused to appear (his chair was pointedly left empty), Allen answered questions of a “Grand Committee” of MPs from 9 countries at Britain’s House of Commons. Among the concerns raised by lawmakers was Facebook’s policies regarding third-party application developers and the use and collection of user data. After having seized internal documents from a lawsuit opposing Facebook to Six4Three, an app developing company, MP, Damian Collins suggested that the platform was made aware of suspicious Russian behaviour on its platform as early as 2014, which according to Facebook was a false alarm. These emails, to which the Wall Street Journal had access, also show that Facebook considered charging companies for continued access to user data in 2012. In the meantime, following up on the “Definers” case, BuzzFeed News, accessed to emails proving that Sandberg herself was actively involved in looking into Soros and his possible financial motivations. 

Regulation is now?

Also auditioned, Elizabeth Denham, UK information Commissioner advocates for transnational cooperation between regulators. According to her, the era of self-regulation is over. Following the audition, Parliamentarians from across the world signed a declaration on the “Principles of the Law Governing the Internet”. Can this be any worse for Facebook? Mark Scott from Politico explains why this “empty chair” strategy now is backfiring.

Trying to prove its goodwill, last week, Zuckerberg published a blueprint for content moderation on the platform. Among the measures, he announced the company will hold content moderation meetings with outside experts which minutes will be published.

Read here the full transcript of the audition

Local news

Meanwhile, Facebook will have a new function to police on its app, as it launched “Today In”, its local news aggregator available in 400 small to medium-sized US cities and Australia. In Europe, Facebook is donating 4.5 million pounds ($5.8 million) to train journalists in Britain to support communities that have lost local newspapers and reporters, due to readers switching online.

Defending journalists

First draft kicked off its journalists training project “CrossCheck” in Nigeria, ahead of elections happening in February in the country. Journalists from around the world unite against disinformation but that doesn’t please everyone. During a visit in Paris, Russian foreign minister Lavrov openly declared being “preoccupied” by initiatives such as the Journalism Trust initiative launched by Reporters Without Border. For the organisation, such statement is particularly worrying in a climate of defiance towards a free and rigorous press. From the case of Filipino Journalist Maria RessaPeter Pomerantsev  advocates for the establishment of clear digital rights.

Think global act local

Meanwhile, Facebook will have a new function to police on its app, as it launched “Today In”, its local news aggregator available in 400 small to medium-sized US cities and Australia. In Europe, Facebook is donating 4.5 million pounds ($5.8 million) to train journalists in Britain to support communities that have lost local newspapers and reporters, due to readers switching online.

From Russia with Trolls

Last week, the Guardian revealed the influence of Russian trolls over British media. Members of a Russian “troll army” were quoted more than 80 times across British-read media outlets before Twitter revealed their identity and banned them. Regarding Russian influence on news media, Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has said the search engine is preparing to take action against state-run Russian news agencies, including Russia Today and Sputnik, which are accused of spreading propaganda by US intelligence agencies.

Library

What to read, watch and listen to this week:

Agenda