Disinfo Update 02/12/2019

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The way forward to tackle disinformation

Today marks the first Monday of the new European Commission and the release of our position on regulating the online information ecosystem. Before expanding, we’d like to thank those within our community who provided us with their insights and expertise, which helped inform the formulation of our proposal. Above all, we believe in greater transparency and accountability for online platforms, with regulators entrusted with the powers to oversee this. In this context, there are five principles that should be taken into consideration for effective regulation, and you can read about them here

Stopping the hate

There’s a lot that’s happened over the last few weeks regarding hate speech and the responsibility that online platforms should have in fighting it. It all began with Sacha Baron Cohen’s ADL speech where he condemned the business models of online platforms for their role in spreading hate. Cohen advocated for making platforms liable for what their users post, but critics have pointed out the implications for freedom of speech. Facebook also responded by citing its official policy on hate speech – a response which was ripped apart by references to the policy’s poor implementation. On a more technical level, France’s forthcoming online hate speech law was met with criticism from the European Commission last week due to its effect on the harmony of the Digital Single Market and the e-Commerce directive. Interestingly, these dynamics are collectively illustrative of the debate within the EU on the prospective Digital Services Act.

In the news

Good reads

Studies

  • Disinformation on Facebook during Portugal’s 2019 parliamentary election: A new study reveals that disinformation was mostly aimed at the incumbent Partido Socialista and a small environmental party. Researchers found that Facebook Pages’ disinformation content was more subtle and engaging, while the Facebook groups included more amateur and explicit disinformation.
  • Did Russian IRA trolls change the attitudes of American Twitter users in late 2017? New research suggests maybe not. While recognising the limitations of their study, the authors noted how their “results offer an important reminder that the American public is not tabula rasa and may not be easily manipulated by propaganda”.

Events and Announcements