Disinfo Update 22/07/2019

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Out with the old, in with the new

Last Tuesday, Ursula von der Leyen was elected as the President of the EU Commission by the European Parliament. In her candidacy speech, she affirmed her commitment to fair taxation for tech giants, which was something that was certainly shared by MEPs from all of the major European political groups during the debate. 

Now that von der Leyen has been elected, it makes sense to look at her political priorities vis-à-vis disinformation:

  • She has ambitiously set her future Commission the task of updating the Digital Education Action Plan;
  • In order to ‘upgrade liability and safety rules for digital platforms’, she aims to create a new Digital Services Act;
  • Establishment of a joint Cyber Unit to ‘speed up information sharing and better protect ourselves from the risks arising from digitisation’;
  • Foreshadowing the importance of the EU Code of Practice, she stresses the need for a joint approach and common standards to disinformation as a means to safeguard democracy. 

In related news, under the recommendations of the previous Romanian Council of the EU presidency, EU Member States have agreed to set up a Council horizontal working party for addressing disinformation; a more structured approach in strengthening resilience and countering disinformation.

Alice in Youtubeland

In Wired, former Youtube developer Guillaume Chaslot argued that Youtube’s loop is potentially toxic in its ability to push extreme content as per its design. Youtube’s UK Managing Director defended the platform’s AI, which uses recommendation algorithms designed to increase the time that people spend online, arguing that ‘it is important that platforms don’t take a view of banning speakers’ otherwise it would ‘start to look like censorship’. Interestingly, the BBC reported on how Youtube’s AI may have helped the Flat Earth conspiracy theory spread. If you want to know more about this, check out Chaslot’s podcast for the Center for Humane Technology!

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