Editor's note

2021 proved another pivotal year in Europe for our information ecosystems and our response to these challenges. In 2020, the European Union released their roadmap strategies on democratic infrastructure and media sustainability, the European Democracy Action Plan and the European Media and Audiovisual Action Plan, and launched the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) for fact-checkers, academics, and disinformation experts. In 2021, the European institutions pushed forward on the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, regulatory packages to clarify the role and responsibilities of online platforms and increase accountability for online disinformation, alongside a much-needed update to the Code of Practice on Disinformation. During these efforts, the Facebook Papers sent waves across the counter-disinformation space, affirming the concerns of civil society, and motivating lawmakers to double down on their proposals.

 

Key trends

These are micro-entities. 43% of the initiatives surveyed count between 0 and 2 employees

They are community-reliant. 57% work with volunteers and 64% rely on crowdsourcing to some extent.

Strained relationship with the private sector. Almost a third of the participants feel they are in opposition to the major platforms, and two thirds have a weak relationship with telecommunications actors

Sustainability. Only one of the initiatives surveyed said that their operation is fully sustainable.

Security. Cybersecurity is a concern for all actors interviewed. None feels that their operation is entirely secure.

All articles

Machine learning often gets it wrong. I wanted to go a step backwards.

Luca Hammer
Account Analysis
Luca began the project behind Account Analysis one weekend in 2017, in response to a growing debate about bots.

Addressing the information ecosystem disorder

Dr Claire Wardle, Marie Bohner
First Draft
First Draft was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit coalition of nine founding partners with the mission of protecting communities from harmful misinformation. That original coalition has expanded greatly since, and now includes international partnerships with newsrooms, universities, companies (recently they have begun work with Spotify), institutions such as the WHO or UNICEF and other NGOs.

“Algorithms not designed to have quality information in their objective functions will naturally favour disinformation”

Guillaume Chaslot
AlgoTransparency
Guillaume Chaslot is a computer programmer with a PhD in artificial intelligence, the founder of the consulting firm IntuitiveAI and of the nonprofit AlgoTransparency. He is currently a Mozilla Fellow. During his three years at Google, he had worked beside YouTube engineers on their recommendation system. He observed how the algorithm, which optimized for watch time, had some dangerous side effects.

News literacy for all

Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck
Lie Detectors
Juliane founded Lie Detectors to respond to two sides of a problem she identified in the information ecosystem.

Know your algorithm

Claudio Agosti
Tracking Exposed
Tracking Exposed is a non-profit, free software project that aims to analyze evidence of algorithmic personalization. It was founded in 2016 by Claudio Agosti, a self-taught hacker and developer, currently researcher at the University of Amsterdam.

“Our goal is to defund disinformation”

Clare Melford
Global Disinformation Index
The Global Disinformation Index is responding to the growth of digital disinformation sustained through advertising revenue.

A central node in a growing network

Eliot Higgins
Bellingcat
Bellingcat emerged in July of 2014 from the online community that had formed around Eliot’s blog, in particular around his work tracking the downing of flight MH17.

The first citizens’ anti-fake news brigade

Aude Favre
WTFake!?
“You could say the problem I’m trying to solve is fake news, but, deeper than that, the problem is mistrust of journalists.”

Countering disinformation from A to Z

Domen Savic
Citizen D
Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Citizen D is a nonprofit whose core mission is the promotion of human and digital rights.

Monitoring elections in the digital age

Rast’o Kužel
Memo 98
MEMO 98 is a monitoring organisation consisting of media and election experts. What began in 1998 as a project to monitor the Slovak media prior to the parliamentary elections developed into a permanent organisation that has conducted media and election monitoring across the world.

“We use technology to tell the story of technology”

Sam Jeffers
Who Targets Me
Sam Jeffers co-founded Who Targets Me in 2017, having worked previously on political campaigns which had favoured grassroots, bottom-up tactics. He’d witnessed the ecosystem shift around 2015, when parties and candidates began to buy social media ads to target small groups of voters with large quantities of tailored messaging.

Journalism not to be fooled

Carlos Hernández
Maldita
Maldita is a Spanish non-profit fact-checking and data journalism platform working to monitor and counter digital discourse, to fight disinformation, and to promote media literacy.

Disinformation is small water drop that over time can hew out a stone

Viktoras Daukšas
Debunk EU
Debunk EU defines itself as an independent technological think tank and analysis center for disinformation.

Meta-debunking decentralised disinformation

Dr Myriam Redondo
VerificaRTVE
The purpose of Verifica RTVE is to change the culture of the institution.

A turning point in our response to disinformation?

This research was conducted at a moment when the disinformation challenge has never seemed higher. From the Covid-19 health crisis and parallel ‘infodemic’ to elections in the US and Belarus, 2020 has been a tumultuous year for our information ecosystems.

 

Towards a Resilient, Decentralized Civil Society Ecosystem

Disinformation represents a diffuse and rapidly evolving set of challenges. It requires a broad response and the harmonised efforts of diverse actors. Disinformation is also a transversal threat by which more and more actors find themselves confronted. EU DisinfoLab believes that a thriving, decentralized civil society ecosystem is key to an effective response.

Community Support Hub

The EU DisinfoLab has conducted a comprehensive mapping of support available for European and international counter-disinformation actors, including both public and private funding opportunities. We also have some tips for those applying to funding for the first time. Visit our Community Support Hub.

This project is made possible by the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Thanks are also due of course to the actors interviewed and featured here. They were generous in taking the time to participate in this project, and earnest in their contributions.