Disinfo Update 28/10/2019

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Dezinformacja: Trollin’ time in Poland

Yesterday, journalists for Newsweek Polska uncovered a Polish troll farm – Cat@Net, which had over 170 fake accounts on social media managed by just 14 people. Katarzyna – one of the journalists involved – went undercover and worked for Cat@Net from April to October 2019. Given the freshness of this, many accounts are still active. We unfortunately do not have any English-language articles, but the story will likely evolve. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Cat@Net’s trolls used fake identities by posing as real Polish people with left-wing and right-wing views, with some defending the Law and Justice party’s views, while others doing the complete opposite.
  • Between late 2017 and spring 2019, the trolls also worked for the Polish public broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP). 
  • It was also found that Cat@Net received state subsidies from employing disabled people as trolls (1.5m złoty or €350,000 since November 2015).
  • In addition, the journalists involved have since published their entire investigation in the Portuguese newspaper Diário de Notícias.

Transatlantic Pushbacks

Facebook had it rough from both sides of the Atlantic last week. While Facebook had announced further measures to protect the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and helped Graphika uncover a Russian operation targeting 2020Zuckerberg was grilled during a U.S. congressional hearing on Thursday. This comes at the moment of Facebook’s VP Richard Allan detailing how Facebook is preparing for the next UK general election. The answer seems to be not very well in light of British MP and DCMS Chair Damian Collins’ recent letter to Facebook VP Nick Clegg.

Brussels’ Bubble

Good Reads

Studies

  • The Center for Climate Change Communication has released a report detailing how the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change. The report notes that the strategy, tactics, and arguments used by the fossil fuel industry “come straight out of the tobacco industry’s playbook for delaying tobacco control”.
  • YouTube’s algorithm doesn’t radicalise people? New research suggests we should actually be more worried about the communities that form around online right-wing content, especially since it’s entered the mainstream. Wired has summarised this for us.

Events and Announcements

Happy UNESCO Global Media and Information Literacy Week!