Dear Disinfo Update readers,

Welcome to our newsletter, your trusted source for curated updates on news, events, and announcements in the disinformation field from around the globe.

The ongoing armed conflict between Israel and Hamas has given rise to an unprecedented surge in disinformation across social media platforms. Our community is doing an immense frontline job on the topic – our heartfelt thanks for your unwavering commitment, and please remember to prioritise self-care! To assist you in navigating this complex situation, we have begun curating a resource hub page that provides you with news, developments, reliable research, insightful analysis, and fact-checks, and other useful resources. The page will be updated as the conflict unfolds, serving as a valuable source for staying informed.

The rollout of the Digital Services Act (DSA) has ignited a whirlwind of tensions between the Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and the European Commission, marked by formal warnings and veiled threats exchanged on both sides. Add the upcoming European elections and the debates over political ads to the mix, et voilà: a veritable cauldron of discussions and deliberations.

More about these hot topics and more in this edition of Disinfo Update – take a look below!

Disinfo news & updates

  • Israel-Hamas armed conflict. The attack of Hamas on Israeli towns at the border with Gaza was followed by a considerable wave of disinformation on all major social media platforms. The scale of misinformation in this conflict is described as unprecedented, creating a significant challenge for those trying to counter it, examples abound from both sides of the conflict. Following a letter from the EU Commissioner Thierry Breton urging TikTok to align its response with the Digital Services Act (DSA), the platform announced it took down over 500.000 videos and 8.000 livestreams related to the Israel-Hamas conflict for violating its guidelines. Also Meta was requested by the European Commission to provide information on its measures taken to comply with obligations to tackle the dissemination of illegal content and disinformation, and it announced it had taken a series of measures in response to the conflict, removing nearly 800.000 pieces of content. This interview of a BBC journalist and fact-checker sheds light on the complexities of verifying content during conflicts, and the efforts to provide accurate and reliable information. The European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) reviewed dozens of fact-checking articles and analysis, and published the major findings of the preliminary analysis. Check out our new Israel-Hamas armed conflict resource hub page for more news and developments, links to reliable research, analysis, and fact-checks that helps you navigate this conflict.
  • Right-leaning X? Elon Musk confirmed that X fired several members of its election integrity team, including senior manager Aaron Rodericks who had faced right-wing harassment following his attempts to hire staff to combat political misinformation. Musk’s actions align with his previous moves to reduce moderation teams, and raise concerns on the platform endorsing right-wing narratives. Read more here.
  • Behave, or you’re grounded. The European Union issued a warning to X to comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA) that came into force in August, after it was found to have the highest ratio of disinformation posts among the large social media platforms. X left the Code of Practice on Disinformation, but is now obligated to follow the rules or potentially face a ban across the EU. Read more here.
  • Not if I ground you first! Scolded by the EU, Musk announced he considers making X unavailable in Europe, by removing the app’s availability in the region, or blocking users in the EU from accessing it.
  • DSA Transparency Database. The European Commission launched the Digital Services Act Transparency Database, a regulatory repository where online platform providers’ content moderation decisions will be publicly accessible. Take a closer look here
  • In pursuit of an ad-greement. Amid the ongoing trilogue negotiations between the EU institutions on political advertising regulations, critical issues such as the use of sensitive data, regulatory scope, and manipulation in political campaigns remain areas of dispute. Read this informative piece dissecting the status and the toughest bones of contention.
  • More tantrums in tech town. Meta is contemplating charging users in the EU for ad-free access to their platforms Facebook and Instagram. The move is in response to a European court ruling that stated Facebook could not use personal data for targeted ads without user consent, which has been so far a core part of their revenue model. Read about it here.
  • Disinfo in the pipeline, again. Last week, Finnish authorities reported a ruptured Balticconnector gas pipeline, likely due to “external activity”, with pro-Kremlin sources promoting narratives similar to those seen with Nord Stream pipeline incidents. Read more here.

What we’re reading

  • Cracking the Code. This study examines the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation, focusing on evaluating the prevalence and sources of disinformation across the major social media platforms in three European countries (Poland, Slovakia, Spain).
  • Policy recommendations by vera ai. In today’s platform-driven era, access to comprehensive data is crucial for researchers analysing the dynamics of online content. Explore this set of policy recommendations from the vera ai project, which focuses on improving data access tools, simplifying application procedures, and fostering transparency in the use of social media data for academic and investigative purposes.
  • Nailing on a technicality. Reiner Fuellmich, a German lawyer known for his involvement in the global COVID “truther” movement, was arrested, being accused of embezzling funds that had been collected as donations from the COVID conspiracy movement to support a class-action lawsuit against those believed to have orchestrated the pandemic. Read more about this interesting case on monetisation of disinformation.

This week’s recommended read

Raquel Miguel, Researcher at EU DisinfoLab, recommends reading this study conducted by AlgorithmWatch in collaboration with AI Forensics. It delves into the accuracy of information provided by the new Microsoft’s Bing Chat when queried about the recent regional elections held in Bavaria and Hesse in Germany, as well as in Switzerland. The AI driven search engine yielded inaccurate information concerning poll numbers, candidates, and contentious issues throughout the election campaign, among other issues.

The study underscores the potential risks associated with AI driven search engines – an “immature and dangerous technology”, according to the authors – in undermining well-informed electoral decision-making and, consequently, the shaping of public opinion within a democratic system, while highlighting the significance of swift regulatory measures.

The latest from EU DisinfoLab

  • Addressing the challenge of AI generated misinformation. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies has long been a challenge for the disinformation field, allowing content to be easily manipulated and contributing to accelerate its distribution. In view of these rapid changes, it is crucial to understand how platforms face the challenge of moderating AI manipulated and AI generated content that may end up circulating as mis- or disinformation. Our new factsheet ‘Platforms’ policies on AI-manipulated and generated misinformation’ delves into how some of the main platforms approach AI manipulated or AI generated content in their terms of use, and explores how they address its potential risk of becoming mis- and disinformation.
  • Having the tools but not knowing how to use them. Just over a year ago, our research into Illuminati membership schemes inadvertently drew a global audience in search of wealth. As the number of page visits to the article skyrocketed, and our inbox filled with countless emails, we realised that our words, meant to expose deception, might have unintentionally tricked some into clickbaiting! How did this happen? Read more here.
  • Regulating disinformation in Luxembourg. Facing the evolving challenge of disinformation, multiple legal and non-legal frameworks have been implemented both at European and national level in EU Member States. This document, published under EDMO BELUX, aims at putting together the key issues regarding the legal framework applicable in Luxembourg.
  • #Disinfo2023. Our annual conference in Krakow, Poland, on 11-12 October was a blast – brilliant discussions, meaningful encounters, and a united community dedicated to advancing our shared mission. As we diligently compile the comprehensive Conference Dossier, we invite you to explore CheckFirst’s key takeaways from the event here.

Events & announcement

  • 26 October: The event ‘Fighting Misinformation Online’ invites European government, policy makers, NGOs, media organisations, academics, and tech companies to collaborate and share knowledge around tackling misinformation. EU DisinfoLab’s Research Manager Maria Giovanna Sessa will be introducing the discussion session on the EU elections, and speaking in the panel on the threats and opportunities of technology in the battle against misinformation. Register here to join the event in person or online!
  • 27-28 October: The XVIII Congress of the National Association of Health Informers (ANIS), hosted in Mallorca by the Spanish Association of Health reporters, will address challenges in health journalism, including the effects of misinformation on health safety, emerging infectious diseases, climate change, and the role of artificial intelligence. Our researcher, Raquel Miguel, will be a panellist in the session titled ‘Artificial Intelligence at the service of disinformation’. Learn more here.
  • 30 October & 6 November: Two online training sessions under the title ‘An introduction to DISARM Framework on disinformation tactics, techniques and procedures’ will be organised by EDMO, and are open to the members of the EDMO network.
  • 16-17 November: European Media and Information Fund (EMIF) Autumn Event 2023, ‘Community Building Against Disinformation’, will take place in Florence, Italy. Our Maria Giovanna Sessa will be speaking in a Thursday afternoon panel discussion ‘Lessons Learned and Future Avenues for Countering Disinformation’. Register here.
  • 26-27 February 2024: European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) Scientific Conference on Disinformation will be hosted by the University of Amsterdam, and aims to foster a comprehensive dialogue on the challenges, impacts, and strategies for addressing disinformation across various fields. Call for papers is open, submit your abstract here.
  • 27 February – 1 March 2024: Media Literacy Matters! The European Digital and Media Literacy Conference in Brussels puts the many faces of digital and media literacy in the European spotlight during the Belgian EU presidency. Waiting for the registrations to open, you can subscribe to the interest list here. If you want to share your initiative or insights with media literacy practitioners from all over Europe, submit your proposal by 10 November!
  • Save the … month! The inaugural edition of the European Festival of Journalism and Media Literacy will take place in Florence in February 2024. Read more about it here.
  • Disinformation in Belgium & Luxembourg. The EDMO BELUX Lunch Lecture on 23 October delved into the spread of disinformation in Belgian and Luxembourgish society, through a comparative survey that revealed which citizens are most likely to get exposed to and to believe in disinformation. Watch the recording here.
  • Be a catalyst for AI governance! Applications for CAIDP’s AI Policy Clinic spring 2024 cohort are open! Policy enthusiasts, tech aficionados, ethics champions, and all those eager to make a difference in AI governance, apply by 19 November!
  • More AI, media & data governance. Take this opportunity to collaborate with international experts and highlight your research globally by joining Research Assessment Panels launched by the International Observatory on Information and Democracy, starting in mid-November. The panels focus on AI, media in the digital age, and data governance.

This good X!