Disinfo Update 16/09/2019

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The Brussels’ Corner

Last Tuesday, Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen announced her Commissioners-designate for the 2019-2024 mandate. Concerning disinformation and Internet governance, we’ve created a handy infographic for understanding which commissioner would oversee the related files according to their portfolios.

Speaking at the CCBE standing committee last Friday, Margrethe Vestager expressed her desire to tackle the power of online platforms, affirming that ‘as the world changes, and new types of power and influence grow, the rules we have need to keep up with those changes’. Yet, according to Euractiv, while Vestager appears to be the digital chief – in practice – Goulard has the power. Now that von der Leyen has selected her Commissioners, it’s the European Parliament’s turn to audition them before their confirmation by the end of October.

We attended a Mozilla Mornings event last week on ‘the future of EU content regulation’, which mainly centred on discussing the upcoming Digital Services Act. Werner Stengg – who is DG CNECT’s Head of Unit for E-commerce and Platforms – indicated a timeline for the DSA, noting that the Commission is currently in evaluation mode, which will be followed by an impact assessment early 2020, culminating in a potential proposal by the end of 2020 / beginning of 2021. 

In keeping with the DSA, it appears the battle for influence is heating up in the European Parliament. Alongside the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO), the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) has announced that it will also release an initiative report.

EU DisinfoLab Study…

In partnership with Le Monde, we uncovered a French white supremacist network called Suavelos that’s using fake Facebook pages to drive traffic to their websites in order to generate revenue while pushing white supremacist narratives.  You can read about it here.

Since the study’s release, alongside the removal of some Facebook pages, Suavelos’ two founders have been banned from Facebook for life. And, Paypal and Taboola have removed their accounts. We’ve also written to the platforms to ask for more transparency regarding the audience reach and their amplification of the content.

In the news…

  • Senior Microsoft executives have authored an article arguing for the crucial need of regulation for tech companies, noting that ‘the greatest risk facing technology firms isn’t overregulation – it’s that governments won’t do enough, swiftly enough, to address the technology issues affecting the world’.
  • Buzzfeed has uncovered that Boris Johnson secretly ordered the Cabinet Office to turn the UK government’s public internet service into a platform for ‘targeted and personalised information’ to be gathered in the run-up to Brexit.

Good reads…

  • Data and Society has released a study that explores the significance of ‘source hacking’, which is how online media manipulators use specific techniques to hide the source of the false and problematic information they circulate. In addition, Poynter has summarised the study’s key takeaways.
  • The BBC’s Beyond Fake News project has done an investigation into how YouTube makes money from fake cancer cure videos.

Events and Announcements

  • 19th September, 16:00 CEST @ EU DisinfoLab Webinar: Fakey – A social media and news literacy game.  Pre-register here.

Jobs

  • The George Washington University Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics (IDDP) is hiring researchers to work on topics related to detecting, tracking, and correcting disinformation/misinformation.

Photo by Thijs ter Haar