Dear Disinfo Update readers,

Welcome to this edition of our Disinfo Update newsletter, your go-to spot for all things disinformation!

Reflecting on those enchanting October days in Krakow… The #Disinfo2023 session summaries are now accessible in our Conference Dossier for a journey back to the insightful panel discussions, thought-provoking keynotes, and enlightening workshops.

Continuing our exploration of the disinformation landscape, our upcoming webinar unveils findings from a comparative study on disinformation in European countries. We’ll delve into the impact during Slovak and Polish elections, uncover recurrent narratives, discuss potential threats, and explore implemented solutions to safeguard democratic integrity. Join us to connect the dots between local challenges and global implications. Details and sign-up available here!

If you missed our last newsletter, fear not! We’re still on a quest to bring the counter-disinfo community together on Bluesky and Mastodon. If you’re struggling with spreading your wings away from X, join us in this initiative by completing this form.

Now, kick back, scroll down, and savour the disinfo updates below!

Disinfo news & updates

  • AI policies. This article digs into YouTube’s revised policies for AI videos, notably incorporating new disclosure requirements for creators. Against the backdrop of Sam Altman’s return to OpenAI, the piece examines how evolving AI regulations on platforms like YouTube intersect with broader discussions about responsible AI leadership and governance.
  • Aye-yai-yai. Meta has reportedly disbanded its Responsible AI (RAI) team, already restructured earlier this year with reported layoffs, redirecting most members to the generative AI product team and others to Meta’s AI infrastructure.
  • No note. An AI-generated news website, Global Village Space, has been identified as the source of a false claim stating that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s purported psychiatrist died by suicide. The baseless narrative alleging that he left a suicide note implicating Netanyahu spread on various platforms.
  • Return to sender. This article discusses how Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America,” written two decades ago, went viral on TikTok among a new generation, many of whom drew connections between bin Laden’s justification for the 9/11 attacks and the current Israel-Hamas conflict. It particularly focused on US support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, and claimed that what they learned about the Middle East and terrorism was a lie. TikTok responded by stating that content promoting the letter violates their rules on supporting terrorism, and they are actively removing such content.
  • Not eligible? This article discusses a report by NewsGuard, which found that some verified “Premium” subscribers on X spreading misinformation about the Israel-Hamas armed conflict may be eligible for the ads revenue sharing program. The report identified 30 viral posts, reaching a total of 92 million views, with false or misleading claims about the conflict, but still featuring ads from major brands, nonprofits, educational institutions, and governments.
  • Going hybrid. In recent weeks, worries about disinformation and potential foreign information manipulation interference (FIMI) have emerged amid the partial closure of the Russia-Finland border. Reports indicate that Russia may be manipulating migrant movements, with suspicions of individuals being coerced to cross into Finland. According to several sources, a full closure of the border will be announced on 28 November.
  • DSA amid Dublin unrest. Following riots triggered by a knife attack in Dublin on 23 November, Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s media regulation commission and the national coordinator for Digital Services, urges major platforms to collaborate with law enforcement in identifying individuals promoting hate speech and disseminating disinformation and violent images. This echoes the events of the summer 2023 riots in France, illustrating the ongoing challenges and testing of the EU Digital Services Act’s (DSA) limits in addressing such incidents.
  • Misinformation eruption. Social media posts suggesting abnormal worldwide volcanic activity have been debunked by scientists. Experts say that the volcanic activity reported in Italy, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and the Philippines is within the normal range.

What we’re reading

  • Weathering climate discourse. This report delves into climate change news consumption patterns across eight countries: Brazil, France, Germany, India, Japan, Pakistan, the UK, and the USA, comparing trends from 2022 to 2023. Key findings include persistent concerns about misinformation being one of the main factors contributing to climate inaction. The report emphasises the pivotal role of news media in influencing public attitudes and actions on climate change.
  • CoP. The European Union’s Code of Practice on Disinformation (CoP) requires online platforms to periodically report on their interventions against disinformation. Two sets of reports, covering January to July 2023, have been submitted, but they face criticism for incomplete data – while some platforms provided concrete impact metrics, they remain a minority. Researchers emphasise the need for impact measurements, assessing whether platform interventions result in a change in user engagement with disinformation. Read more here.

This week’s recommended read

This edition’s recommended read is suggested by our Executive Director Alexandre Alaphilippe:

In an era where the financial stability of the media in Europe is under scrutiny, a noteworthy report from Le Monde merits attention. Drawing on data from the French tax authorities and insights from the Panama Papers, among other sources, the report illuminates how investigative journalism has led to the recovery of over €450 million from tax evasion, specifically in France.

However, despite the clear societal benefits of such investigative work, there remains a notable gap between the vocal support from civil society for fundamental financing and the actual implementation of this funding.

Thus, it’s imperative to recognise that backing investigative journalism is not merely a pillar for upholding democratic transparency, but it’s also a pragmatic approach to combat financial misbehaviour, which is at the core of many disinformation campaigns. Supporting such endeavours could enhance welfare resources and potentially fund further journalistic investigations, creating a virtuous cycle of accountability and financial reclamation.

The latest from EU DisinfoLab

  • Connecting disinformation dots across Europe. Our next week’s webinar will dive into the intricate world of disinformation as we unveil the findings of our new comparative study that sheds light on trends and idiosyncrasies across the diverse European disinformation landscapes. Adding a current perspective to the discussion, we’ll zone in on the impact of disinformation during the Slovak and Polish elections, recurrent narratives, potential threats, and the solutions implemented to safeguard the integrity of the democratic process. What were the pivotal lessons that could be applied in the context of upcoming EU elections? Join us as we connect the dots between local challenges and global implications – find the details and sign up here!
  • Throwback: #Disinfo2023. The summaries for the sessions of the EU DisinfoLab 2023 Annual Conference are now available online! Explore the complete Conference Dossier for detailed insights. Additionally, if you haven’t done so already, take a moment to browse through the selection of photos and presentation slides of (most of) the sessions.
  • Bye Bye Bird. In our last newsletter, we launched a low-tech initiative to facilitate bringing the counter-disinformation community together on Bluesky and Mastodon. The opportunity to share your user handle(s) with like-minded individuals is still available. If, like us, you struggle spreading your wings away from X, participate in this collaborative effort by completing this form!

Events & announcements

  • 1 December: A COP28 side event ‘Tackling disinformation on climate change’ will take place in Brussels. Find the details here, and register to watch the live stream.
  • 5 December: Join our webinar to discover the findings of our new comparative study on trends across the diverse European disinformation landscapes, and to discuss the lessons from the Slovak and Polish elections that could be applied in the context of upcoming EU elections – register here!
  • 6 December: European Digital Media Observatory will organise an online training to master the InVID-WeVerify verification toolbox, in collaboration with DE FACTO, EDMO Ireland Hub, and the project. Check it out here!
  • 18 December: Although polarisation is a global problem, not all democracies suffer equally. The next EDMO BELUX Lunch Lectures will delve into the institutional differences that help explain why countries like the US are so deeply polarised, while those like Belgium are not (yet). Register here!
  • 27 February – 1 March 2024: Media literacy matters. Applications to participate in the European Digital and Media Literacy Conference in Brussels are now open
  • 9-10 October 2024: After our Annual Conference in the beautiful city of Krakow, #Disinfo2024 will set its foot in Riga. Save the date!
  • Doubts? The new EDMO BELUX campaign, led by Mediawijs and Média Animation, offers practical tips for those questioning what they see in the media, bringing more certainty to their hesitation. The campaign is available in English, French, Dutch, and Luxembourgish. Check it out here and share with anyone who might have doubts.
  • Contribute to gathering research. The International Observatory on Information and Democracy opens a global call to gather international research on four themes: AI, information ecosystems and democracy; media politics and trust; data governance and democracy; and as a cross-cutting issue misinformation and disinformation. The call is open to any individual or institution working in any capacity on these issues. Find the details here and submit your contribution by 7 January 2024.