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The fight for your data
Last Tuesday, the EU institutions and national governments backed privacy activist Max Schrems in a hearing at the Court of Justice of the EU over the Irish data protection authority’s refusal to take a decision on whether Facebook could transfer the personal data of Europeans to the US. Schrems’ lawyer argued that ‘when data is transferred by Facebook to the US, the protection is weakened by US law, which also applies to the Privacy Shield’. This comes at the time of Facebook’s $5 billion fine from the US Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Strikingly, in a recent speech, EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová asserted that ‘our data is not something these companies can own’, while also affirming that ‘breaking up the big internet platforms was a last resort’. In likening this idea to a nuclear weapon, she noted that ‘nuclear weapons are not there to be used, their strength lies in their dissuasive effect’.
Haters gonna (openly) hate?
France adopted tough legislation against online hate speech last week, requiring digital platforms to delete messages that are ‘manifestly unlawful on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability’. In related news, Twitter’s hateful conduct policy now prohibits the use of dehumanising words to describe religious groups. And Instagram’s anti-bullying AI asks users ‘are you sure you want to post this?’ when it identifies negative comments. Yet, questions do arise relating to the efforts taken by message boards to regulate this content, especially considering that hate speech on 4chan has spiked by 40% since 2015.
Stoking the Brexit fire
Ireland’s security services are assessing a suspected Russian intelligence operation to spread disinformation targeting Anglo-Irish relations over Brexit and societal divisions in Northern Ireland. Earlier last week, Russia Today and Sputnik News were banned by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office from attending a conference on media freedom because of their ‘active role in spreading disinformation’. In July 2018, the UK government reported on the role of Russian disinformation in the 2016 EU Referendum.
- The UK government has announced its plans to teach school children about confirmation bias and online risks as part of the new compulsory curriculum.
- Facebook will now provide its users with more transparency and detailed information on why certain ads were shown to them.
- France has passed a tax on ‘digital services’ requiring tech giants to pay a 3% tax on total annual revenue generated by providing services to French users, affecting the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
- According to the Editor of the Czech news outlet Seznam Zprávy, a current disinformation narrative in the country claims that the protests against PM Andrej Babiš are sponsored by different groups, George Soros, or Czech political parties.
- Institut Montaigne published an analysis of the French and American ecosystems and the polarisation of their media, noting that unlike the American media, the polarisation of the French media is less aligned with political actors.
- Vice has published real-life stories on how the QAnon conspiracy theory has destroyed people’s relationships.
Events and Announcements
- 18th July @ Brussels, Berlaymont, Atrium Level 3 – Launch of a new report ‘Understanding our political nature’ hosted by the European Commission’s Science and Knowledge Service.
- 16-18th October @ Vilnius, Lithuania – Call for applications for the 2nd Vilnius Young Leaders’ Meeting for addressing the threats posed by disinformation.
- 23-24th October @ Washington, DC – The 3rd Annual Global Forum on Strategic Communications and Digital Disinformation.