Good morning, Disinfo Update readers – and a warm welcome to all our newest ones! We hope you’ll benefit from EU DisinfoLab’s bi-weekly roundup of news and insights into the world of disinformation.
We were thrilled to meet many of you last week in Brussels for our 2022 annual conference. A piece of advice: Mark 11-12 October, 2023 in your calendar! We’re moving our 2023 annual conference outside of Brussels, and we’ll be welcoming you in the beautiful city of Krakow, Poland. We can’t wait to see many of you there!
In the meantime, don’t forget to register for this European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN) conference to be held in Brussels on 16 November where the European project will present its Code of Standards.
Enjoy the read!
Disinfo News & Updates
- ICYMI! Elon Musk tweeted yesterday that the new Twitter Blue subscription could let anyone rent a verified check with a priority status for their tweets, few ads, and more services for $8 per month (price to be adjusted per country). The new version will also get “a paywall bypass for publishers willing to work with us.” On an unrelated note, Twitter removed accounts that sought to influence America’s midterms, which comes at a stormy time where the social media giant faces scrutiny on how it manages disinformation.
- Turkish disinformation law. On 13 October, ahead of next year’s elections,Turkey ratified a new media law introducing jail terms for journalists and social media users disseminating “disinformation”. Without a clear definition of “false or misleading information”, critics are afraid of the different possible interpretations of the law which might be used to punish dissent. Since then, Turkey’s opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, has applied to the country’s top court to see the Article 29 that sets jail time for spreading “disinformation” annulled.
- Fines. The German Federal Office of Justice has issued two fines against Telegram. The company is accused of violating the obligation to maintain reporting channels that comply with the law as well as the obligation to appoint a domestic agent for service of process.
EU policy monitor
- Digital Services Act. The DSA was signed by the European Parliament and the Council on 19 October, and was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 27 October. The job is just starting though, the key being its implementation and enforcement! It will enter into force on 16 November, but will start applying for the Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Very Large Search Engines (VLSEs) only 4 months after they are designated as such (the first designations are expected for mid-February 2023). For other platforms, it will be no earlier than the beginning of 2024. If you want to understand better what the DSA will mean for disinformation experts, check out our DSA user guide. As Twitter takeover by Elon Musk happened at the same time as the DSA publication in the Official Journal, Commissioner Thierry Breton made it clear that Twitter will need to abide by the DSA rules.
- European Media Freedom Act. The Parliament has not yet appointed rapporteurs for the file as the question of competencies remains open. While it is highly probable that the CULT Committee will be in charge, LIBE and IMCO Committees also have grounds to claim competencies – if not to all, at least to some parts of the text. The competencies question should be resolved in November. In the meantime, the Council is moving forward with examining the text at the Audiovisual Working Party but no General Approach is expected under the Czech Presidency. You can see our concerns regarding the proposal here. The Commission is also organising a public consultation to feed into the negotiations. Deadline is 23 December.
- Digital Markets Act. The regulation entered into force yesterday, 1 November. The Commission is organising a workshop to gather stakeholders’ views on the DMA’s ban on self-preferencing on 5 December. To register, click here.
What we’re reading
- Disinformation funding. We’re proud to see the work of our researchers featured in this extensive ProPublica investigation which highlights how Google’s Ad business generates revenues to some websites spreading disinformation in Africa, Europe and Latin America.
- QAnon spread. This analysis by Le Monde, Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat and three European media outlets, looks into how conspiracy theories like QAnon cross the Atlantic.
- Abortion misinformation on social media. Hundred days after the US Supreme Court’s ruling overturned the right to abortion, this ISD study focuses on the spread of mis- and disinformation on social media platforms.
- Tactics of disinformation 101. Disinformation actors use a variety of tactics to influence others, stir them to action, and cause harm. Here’s a helpful tool to better understand these tactics.
EU DisinfoLab monthly trends
Here are the September disinformation trends from our in-house researchers in France, Germany and Spain.
- In France in September, more than 100 hoaxes were debunked – a figure which is stable compared to over this summer. Most hoaxes were related to the war in Ukraine, the energy and the economic crises. Re the war in Ukraine, almost half of the narratives were pro-Russia. An ingenious operation was spreading fake covers of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on some Telegram and Twitter accounts aiming at mocking Zelensky and other European leaders.
- In Germany, the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine and sowing doubts about German sovereignty were the events that generated the most hoaxes in September. The energy crisis is mainly exploited for economic fear-mongering and pro-Russian propaganda. Some hoaxes related to this topic – claiming that a teenager was killed in an accident because of savings on street lighting – were part of our Doppelganger campaign. The war in Ukraine was still the main frame of disinformation, mainly with pro-Russian narratives. Finally, one of the most striking cases sowing doubts about Germany sovereignty was a claim that the German government in exile negotiated with Russia about gas deliveries. A member of Citizens of the Reich, a group that doesn’t recognize the German democratic institutions, met Russian businessmen and politicians. A false tweet impersonating the Russian embassy gave credibility to him, fuelling confusion.
- In Spain in September, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis triggered a lot of disinformation. Similarly to this summer, climate change also generated unprecedented amounts of disinformation. As usual, political polarisation is the predominating narrative, aiming either at supporting or defaming the government or opposition parties. Political disinformation was generated around several project bills such as the so-called trans law or against the energy saving plan with hoaxes claiming that it meant cutting off electricity to homes 3 hours a day. Another narrative hides denying climate change by using a new disinformative technique whereby new theories are integrated into the old ones. For example, global warming effects are positive: there is no deforestation as it is naturally caused by the sun.
The latest from EU DisinfoLab
- Opinion. Brussels needs to move beyond ready-made slogans in the fight against disinformation.
- Gender-based disinformation. As a result of a collaboration between EU DisinfoLab and #ShePersisted, we produced two complementary documents on gender-based disinformation:
- A blogpost which aims to input on the ongoing debates on the Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence that the European Commission has proposed in March 2022. While putting forward several interesting initiatives to protect victims offline and online, the Directive is limited in scope and does not consider the impact of harmful content, notably gender-based disinformation (GBD).
- This “Gender-based disinformation 101: Theory, examples, and need for regulation” Technical Document offers a short and practical toolbox of what should be considered when speaking of gender-based disinformation.
- Conference materials. The #Disinfo2022 materials – including presentations, recordings and pictures – will be available from our conference page in the next few days! Bear with us!
Events & announcements
- 16 November. Join us at the European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN) conference in Brussels! The project will present both its Code of Standards for independent Fact-checking organisations and its newly appointed Governance Body. Register and learn more here.
- 2 December. The European Media and Information Fund (EMIF) is hosting its first Annual Event in Lisbon. Click here to register.
- Vera.ai survey. Do you work in information and content verification? The European project, Vera.ai, which aims at using Artificial Intelligence to enhance existing verification and build new ones, is collecting your needs through this short survey. Thank you for taking the time to answer it!
- #PrivacyCamp23. You have until 17 November to submit your proposals to the 11th edition of Privacy Camp under the theme “Critical. Digital. Crisis.”
- RightsCon Costa Rica. The call for proposals for RightsCon Costa Rica is now open until January 12, 2023.
- Leading Newsroom Change. Applications are open for a two-day leadership development course for senior media professionals that the Reuters Institute is hosting on 16-18 November 2022 in Oxford. Click here to learn more.
- Access Now is hiring a Financial Analyst.
- Civitates is looking for a Fund Director.
- ISD is currently recruiting a Coordinator, Networks and Membership, and the Strong Cities Network is seeking applicants for a Europe Programmes Manager. More information here.
- OpenArchive is recruiting a Project Coordinator.
- The European Endowment for Democracy is looking for a Grants Manager and a Programme Assistant, both for Western Balkans.
- The European Partnership for Democracy is looking for a Communications Manager.