Hello everyone! Lauren here — this’ll be the last ever Disinfo Update from me, as I’ll be moving onto new projects away from EU DisinfoLab. I just wanted to take the time out to thank you all for your attentive reading. I’m also happy to introduce you to Claire, our new Policy Coordinator, who will be delivering you our disinfo content each week from now on! Over to you, Claire 🙂
Last chance to have your say on the DSA
The deadline for contributing to the Digital Services Act public consultation is next Tuesday 8th September. Check out our Twitter thread where we shed light on why this consultation is significant for the fight against disinformation. What’s more, EDRi has also put together a DSA answering guide for civil society organisations and individuals who wish to contribute to the consultation.
Elections on the horizon
Many important elections will take place in the coming months, and the role of social media platforms is already front and center — as political podiums, arenas for political advertising, and of course environments ripe for dis-and misinformation. There is a serious risk that various kinds of false and misleading content will influence voter enfranchisement, voting behavior, and even the transmission and acceptance of election results. There is a growing understanding among the platforms that election-related information requires particular attention, but are their policies sufficient?
The world is watching the United States in the lead up to the November election. Last month, four leading US research entities in the field of dis- and misinformation joined together to found the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP). Something between a research watchdog and a war room, they have already begun evaluating election-related speech policies across 14 different platforms, and most recently examined Twitter’s response to potentially voter-suppressing misinformation about mail-in voting. Adjacent to election integrity, election security is also receiving well-deserved attention. Cisco Talos has just released the first paper in their election series “What to expect when you’re electing.”
However, as Eva Gil and Rafael Goldzweig of Democracy Reporting International point out, the US election is not the only test of the platforms’ policies and responsiveness: November will also bring Myanmar’s presidential election, two years after the UN Independent Fact Finding Mission determined the extent to which Facebook had been used as a tool to promote mass murders of the Rohingya people. DRI has recently launched a monitoring tool to help organizations track ‘democratic discourse manipulation’ during elections over social media, which also contains a Digital Democracy Risk Assessment identifying vulnerabilities in EU elections.
You can expect that EU DisinfoLab will be following election-related disinformation closely over the next months.
In the news
- EUvsDisinfo finds that the English-language segment of pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets has been surprisingly indifferent towards the ongoing events in Belarus. The authors write, “while Belarus is very much on the front pages of professional media worldwide, the protests are very scantily covered within the pro-Kremlin disinformation ecosystem”.
- Facebook announced last Tuesday that it plans to expand its News tab internationally. In late July, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission published a draft code of conduct requiring online platforms to pay news publishers for the content they disseminate — a code which has been strongly opposed by Google and Facebook as of Monday.
- The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has released a research briefing detailing how Russian pro-vaccine politics have impacted new disinformation narratives. Stoking anti-US and anti-Ukrainian government sentiments, the briefing explores the reach of a fabricated story on a supposed US COVID-19 vaccine trial that had been conducted on Ukrainian volunteers.
- Coronavirus: How pro-mask posts boost the anti-mask movement – From looking at Twitter during July, First Draft’s new research shows that anti-mask maskers have often been amplified by algorithms, Twitter’s network structure, and users mocking the anti-mask movement.
- Highlighting how repressive governments use social media to amplify criticism against their opponents, the New York Times has reported on how a Cambodian monk fell victim to a government-backed smear campaign on Facebook, leading to his own self-imposed exile.
- For a longer read, Nathaniel Persily and Joshua A. Tucker have just published Social Media and Democracy: The State of the Field, Prospects for Reform (Cambridge University Press, August 2020) A timely, in depth book that they’ve made sure you can also access entirely online.
Events and Announcements
- For the content moderation nerds out there: Discord has released their January – June 2020 Transparency Report, the first since they updated their Community Guidelines, with some reflections on user growth and the platform’s response during Covid-19.
- 3 Sept, 12:00-12:45 EST Listen into the next conversation in a talk series by WITNESS and the MIT Open Documentary Lab on Deepfakes and satire. Info here.
- 15 – 16 Sept – CJR and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism are holding a two-day online symposium about COVID and the fight against racism.
- 28 Sept – 2 Oct, 14:15-16:30 CEST – EU DisinfoLab Virtual Annual Conference – REGISTER HERE.
- Last week, we submitted our contribution to the European Democracy Action Plan roadmap.
- Facebook is launching a new fellowship to help fact-checking organisations bring on new team members to contribute to fact-checking health misinformation.