Hello there! Thank you for opening this edition of Disinfo Update and joining us in our quest to unravel the tangle of facts and faux!

You’re just a scroll away from diving into our four new disinfo landscape factsheets, revisiting the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) and the media exemption that threatens to render void the progress done in the Digital Services Act (DSA) for tackling disinformation, and of course browsing through our suggested reading, upcoming events, and more.

Before taking the plunge, an important reminder: If you did not yet register for the EU DisinfoLab 2023 Annual Conference, the perfect time to do that is NOW (and it couldn’t be much easier: just hit the button below)!

Happy perusing!

Disinfo news & updates

  • With freedom comes… The attempts of DSA to tackle disinformation could face obstacles before they even begin: proposed amendments to the EU’s draft European Media Freedom Act would grant full exemption from any obligation to moderate content for any organisations self-categorising as “media”. Read more in this FT article by a former Twitter senior content moderator and whistleblower.
  • The return of the Doppelganger. In this article, AFP dives into a network impersonating French Media Le Parisien, with a similar modus operandi to the operation we uncovered last year.
  • Linguistic magic – or an open avenue for deepfakes? Google’s latest quest to realise a “Universal Translator” that can redub videos while synchronising the speaker’s lip movements could pose risks of misuse, such as creating deepfakes or disinformation. Google acknowledges the need for safeguards. (Phew!) Read more here.
  • Victory for information manipulation. For most of us, 9 May marks the end of World War II. For the Russian disinformation machine, it’s a yearly occasion to fan the flames of deceit. Read more about this year’s Victory Day pro-Kremlin narratives here.
  • Truth at risk. The 21st edition of the Press Freedom Index report by Reporters Without Borders sounds the alarm against AI’s ability to create fake contents. Read the full report here.
  • Czechia vs. false narratives. Attempts by the Czech government to counter disinformation have largely failed due to lack of consensus, concerns about censorship, and diversion of attention to other issues. Read more here.
  • Lithuania vs. Kremlin. Russian disinformation campaigns are targeting Lithuanian media to change public opinion on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Lithuanian government has implemented measures to combat Kremlin propaganda. Read the article here
  • Meta adversarial threat report. Meta has released their new adversarial report that includes, for the first time, threat indicators such as websites, assets, and malware payloads – a step forward into sharing data publicly to encourage further open source investigations. Find out more in this Twitter thread.
  • Out of the frying pan, into the fire. As a part of its I/O keynotes, jam-packed with announcements, Google unveiled a bunch of upgrades to its AI chat Bard, including added image capabilities, enhanced coding, and new app integrations. The announcement has sparked questions about Bard challenging ChatGPT’s monopoly. With its track record of generating false content, what lies ahead? Read more here.

Brussels corner

  • Ministers to talk about the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA). Today, on 16 May, a Ministerial policy debate is taking place at the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council meeting in Brussels on the EMFA. The media exemption is on the agenda, we do expect that, unfortunately, ministers will approve the direction the text is being pushed by the Swedish Presidency with the media exemption in it.
  • On the Parliament side, MEPs have submitted 1251 amendments on the EMFA draft report of the CULT committee. They are not yet publicly available, but MEPs Monica Semedo and Anna Júlia Donáth submitted an amendment asking to delete article 17 (amendment 967). According to Politico, the first meeting of rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs will be held on 6 June. We encourage you to reach out to lead MEPs in the CULT Committee to express your support for this amendment to prevent the media exemption from coming back through the backdoor of the EMFA! 
  • CULT Committee EMFA Shadow Rapporteur MEP Diana Riba i Giner (Greens/EFA, Spain) is organising an exchange of views on the European Media Freedom Act on Wednesday 31 May (15:00-18:00) at the EP (Room ANTALL 6Q2). If you are in Brussels and want to attend, register and see the agenda here. 

What we’re reading and exploring

  • The bias within. What are the potential implications of political bias in AI systems? This article explores their intersection, with a focus on the example of ChatGPT.
  • Where are we? Bellingcat has developed a new tool that utilises OpenStreetMap data to assist in geolocating images and identifying starting points for geolocation investigations. The tool relies on the identification of objects and structures within an image.
  • Strategic disinformation outperforms honesty. This study examines the competition for social influence and reveals that strategic dishonesty – communicating truthfully when favoured by the client, but lying when ignored – maximised the influence. Read the study here.
  • Moving past disinformation. What exactly is disinformation? How about misinformation? (And does that matter?) Alicia Wanless, the director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggests in this article that instead of becoming entangled in the intricacies of definitions, we should adopt a broader perspective when navigating the information landscape, ultimately creating an “information ecology”.
  • Hallucinations or just algorithmic junk? In this thought-provoking article, author Naomi Klein questions the utopian claims made by tech giants, who often overlook the potential negative consequences and biases embedded within their technologies. The article calls for responsible governance and regulation to counter the spread of misinformation and protect society’s interests. Read it here.
  • Misogyny & extremism. The Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) published a study that compares the threat of far-right extremism in the UK and Australia. It examines the role of online channels in promoting transnational gendered narratives on three levels: misogynistic and hostile beliefs, in-group dynamics and women’s roles, and the framing of far-right concepts that shape the participation in the movement. Download the study here.

This week’s recommended read

Raquel Miguel, a senior researcher of EU DisinfoLab, recommends reading this piece by Darrell M. West, senior fellow of the Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) at Brookings, which delves into the potential implications of disinformative AI-generated content in the upcoming US elections.

Drawing on the recent AI-generated video of Joe Biden created by the Republican Party, the author reflects on how generative AI will allow responding instantly to campaign developments, enable very precise audience targeting, and democratise disinformation “by bringing sophisticated tools to the average person interested in promoting their preferred candidates”. The co-editor-in-chief of TechTank also highlights the lack of policy measures against this danger: since campaign speech is protected, there are no “guardrails or disclosure requirements that protect voters against fake news, disinformation, or false narratives”.

The article illustrates one of the areas where AI-generated content can impact our societies, shedding light on one of the most urgent challenges for the counter-disinformation community.

The latest from EU DisinfoLab

  • The disinformation landscape across Europe. Belgium, with its three languages and three regions, Finland and Sweden, with their relatively media literate populations, and Ireland, with its strong connections to the rest of the English-speaking world, have very different disinformation landscapes. However, they all share many of the same struggles. Immerse yourself in the disinformation landscape of these countries with our new factsheets.! You can find them here.
  • Exempting media & “media”. “MEPs and member states working on the EMFA must see the risks of disinformation and other harmful content that any carveout for media would create,” writes the EU DisinfoLab president Diana Wallis writes in this Euractiv op-ed. “The decision they are facing is clear: either flood Europe with harmful content or prioritise the safety of online users by strongly enforcing horizontal content moderation rules in the DSA.” Read the full op-ed here.
  • #Disinfo2023. The EU DisinfoLab 2023 Annual Conference will bring together renowned experts from various fields, delving into the pressing issues in the disinformation space. Join leading experts and stakeholders from across the disinformation world on 11-12 October 2023 in Krakow, Poland, for a range of session formats and exciting networking opportunities. Register here.

Events and announcements

  • 25 May: EDMO Annual Conference will cover topics from AI, EU policies, and election disinformation to OSINT, data access, media literacy and fact-checking. Registrations for attending IRL are closed, but you can still join the event online.
  • 5-8 June: The 12th edition of RightsCon will take place in Costa Rica, with the possibility to attend remotely. Get your tickets here.
  • 29 June: Meet the Future of AI. An event jointly organised by four Horizon research projects developing novel AI techniques to tackle online disinformation will address a variety of issues and challenges around generative AI and countering sophisticated and advanced disinformation. Registrations are now open.
  • 11-12 October: Reminder (omitting the risk of redundancy) that the registrations for #Disinfo2023 are now open. Secure your seat now.

Job opportunities

  • The European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) is looking for a Programme Assistant and a Research Coordinator. More info here.
  • The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) is hiring a Project Manager for a full-time 12-month contract position. Apply asap here.
  • Moonshot is looking for a Project Assistant based in London. Apply here.
  • The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) is searching for a Bulgaria-based Programme Director for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Find the details here.
  • ActiveFence is hiring a Webint Analyst to work on misinformation in Germany. Submit your application here.
  • ODI is looking for a Research Fellow or Senior Research Fellow Climate adaptation in Fragile and Conflict Affected States Global Risk and Resilience Programme for a 2-year contract, hybrid in London. Apply here.
  • Full Fact is hiring a Chief Executive within easy reach of London. Details here.
  • Logically India is looking for a Public Sector – State Lead. Find more info here.

This good tweet!