Disinfo Update 18/11/2019

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Times of Disinfo goes International

Last week, we uncovered 265 coordinated fake local media outlets, targeting 65 countries, which were designed to serve Indian interests. There are multiple possible reasons behind the creation of this network – ranging from influencing international institutions and elected representatives from both the EU and UN – to creating layers of republication, which make it harder for the reader to trace the manipulation. In speaking to Vice, our very own Alexandre noted that, “if we look at the whole network, not only the media outlets but also the demonstrations and the visit to Kashmir by MEPs, we can see how this [campaign] had a direct influence on how the European Parliament viewed the Kashmir question”. 

Food for thought: Regulating the Attention Economy

US Democrat Andrew Yang has unveiled his plan to regulate the attention economy if successful in his bid to become president. Even though Yang isn’t a strong contender for the US presidency, his ambitious plan for regulation deserves a closer inspection. As a means to stunt the spread of disinformation, Yang proposes to “work with platforms to create algorithms that minimise the spread of mis/disinformation, and information that’s specifically designed to polarise or incite individuals”. But how exactly does this kind of content capture our attention? The Conversation provides some insight on the neuroscience behind it. 

In the news

Good reads

  • According to Vice, earthquake conspiracy theorists are wreaking havoc during emergencies. More specifically, “independent researchers” have taken to social media to spread false information about destructive earthquakes, resulting in both reputable news agencies and US Homeland Security reporting on it. 
  • In light of Twitter’s imminent ban on political ads, HEATED recently reported on how Exxon climate ads aren’t considered political and therefore will still be permissible on the platform after the ban comes into effect. HEATED’s report was picked up by US Democrat Elizabeth Warren who highlighted Twitter’s double standards.

Studies

  • Potemkin Pages & Personas: Assessing GRU Online Operations 2014-2019: Using data from Facebook, the Stanford Internet Observatory’s report notes how GRU set up think tanks, media outlets, and fake personas in order to create and host state-backed narratives to serve as content for syndication or republication on other sites.
  • new study has highlighted how the majority of Facebook advertisements spreading misinformation about vaccines were funded by two anti-vaccine groups. The authors note that, “by deeming all vaccine-related content an issue of “national importance,” Facebook has further politicised vaccines”. If you’re looking for something more digestible, The Washington Post has summarised it for us.

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