Our weekly newsletter on disinformation issues.
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Last week, Facebook announced it took down two large-scale disinformation operations linked to Russian state actors and operating across Eastern and Central Europe. The largest network presented independent newspapers, that were linked to Russian state news agency Sputnik. Facebook said the 364 pages and accounts removed Thursday had almost 800,000 followers and had spent around $135,000 on ads on the platform between October 2013 and this month. The countries targeted included Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia and Moldova. The pages frequently promoted anti-NATO sentiment and protest movements, Facebook said. DFR Lab published an extensive analysis of the operation.
Now Sheryl has a plan
Timely, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg unveiled five new ways the company would be addressing these issues at the annual DLD conference in Munich, staged ahead of the World Economic Forum.
1. Investing in safety and security
2. Protections against election interference
3. Cracking down on fake accounts and misinformation
4. Making sure people can control the data they share about themselves
5. Increasing transparency
Some other Facebook news:
- During the conference, the company announced it will collaborate with the German Ministry for information security in a broad effort to guide policy on election interference.
- Also in Germany, Facebook will help create an independent ethics research center for artificial intelligence (AI) with the Technical University of Munich (TUM). It will provide $7.5 million over five years as “an initial funding grant.”
- Regarding media support and journalism, the company announced a three-year commitment to invest $300 million in “news programs, partnerships and content.”
- Facebook is launching a petition feature called “Community Actions” in the US. The aim is to focus this feature around local causes and bring them to the attention of government bodies in charge of them.
Whatsapp disinfo problem
Disinformation on Whatsapp is difficult to monitor and debunk due to the encrypted feature of the messaging app. Though, the messaging app has a disinformation problem (see the last Brazilian elections or health disinformation spreading on the platform) and tries to figure out what solution could be implemented. It has started to ban users who show suspicious behaviour or may really be software bots. It has also added a notification to show when a message has been forwarded from another account and has limited the number of times you can forward a link. Now, together with the dutch project Drog, they will try to educate its users through an in-app online game, Bad News. The game has been presented at our last webinar, read the summary here.
Global disinformation warming
A study from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental illustrates how a large-scale misinformation campaign has eroded public trust in climate science and stalled efforts to achieve meaningful policy, but also how an emerging field of research is providing new insights into this dynamic. In the paper, they identify potential strategies to confront these misinformation campaigns across four related areas: public inoculation, legal strategies, political mechanisms, and financial transparency.
- The black market for social media reputation: NATO StratCom study
- Confirmation bias: political tribalism as a driver of disinformation from Peter Kreko
- Health Misinformation Is Rampant on Instagram to read in the Atlantic
- Fact checking sites Lead Stories and Nieuwscheckers collaborated to map a network of Macedonian fake news websites
- The Baltic model in countering disinformation: Baltic countries have a long history with Russian influence. In 2007, Estonia faced a major Russian-backed cyberattack and build a strong cyberdefence mechanism and international collaboration to face such incidents and disinformation.
Agenda and announcements
- 24 January @ Chisinau – Conference “Misinformation as a Propaganda Tool: Regional Trends and Impact”
- 28 January @ Brussels – EU Commission conference “Countering Disinformation: Towards a More Transparent, Credible, and Diverse Digital Media Ecosystem”
- 29 January @ Brussels – Center for Data Innovation Conference: The Impact of AI on Diplomacy and International Relations
- 30 January – DisinfoLab Webinar: InVid video verification tool with Denis Teyssou from AFP
Europuls – Centre for European Expertise, a Romanian NGO gathering experts in EU affairs based in Brussels and Bucharest, together with the Association for Independent Press from the Republic of Moldova, are launching an updated version of the StopFals app for mobile phones. Pinnochio, whose nose grows every time a lie is told, will help users quickly distinguish between partial fakes, manipulative information or serious fakes.
Looking for fame? Calls for papers and awards
- The first AoIR Flashpoint Symposium seeks to investigate platform-driven changes and emergent practices of everyday-life content production occurring “below the radar”: Submissions are due by 20 February 2019