Disinfo Update 15/07/2019

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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.

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