The way forward to tackle disinformation
Today marks the first Monday of the new European Commission and the release of our position on regulating the online information ecosystem. Before expanding, we’d like to thank those within our community who provided us with their insights and expertise, which helped inform the formulation of our proposal. Above all, we believe in greater transparency and accountability for online platforms, with regulators entrusted with the powers to oversee this. In this context, there are five principles that should be taken into consideration for effective regulation, and you can read about them here.
Stopping the hate
There’s a lot that’s happened over the last few weeks regarding hate speech and the responsibility that online platforms should have in fighting it. It all began with Sacha Baron Cohen’s ADL speech where he condemned the business models of online platforms for their role in spreading hate. Cohen advocated for making platforms liable for what their users post, but critics have pointed out the implications for freedom of speech. Facebook also responded by citing its official policy on hate speech – a response that was ripped apart by references to the policy’s poor implementation. On a more technical level, France’s forthcoming online hate speech law was met with criticism from the European Commission last week due to its effect on the harmony of the Digital Single Market and the e-Commerce directive. Interestingly, these dynamics are illustrative of the ongoing debate within the EU on the prospective Digital Services Act.
In the news
- What can the EU and its Member States do to promote independent, professional journalism? Reuters Institute has released a report that answers this very question. Are you short for time? Check out their concise Twitter thread that explains the report’s key details.
- China has now made it a criminal offense to publish deepfakes or AI-created false information online without disclosure. This move mirrors similar legislation that was brought into force in California last month.
- According to Nieman Journalism Lab, political hashtags such as #Metoo and #BlackLivesMatter make some people doubt the stories they’re attached to. These findings show that we cannot “take the effects of common social media practices for granted,” as “even a simple hashtag intended to increase a post’s prominence and distribution can encourage some readers to view mainstream news content as hyperpartisan or untrue”.
- Big Tech’s Big Defector: Roger McNamee The New Yorker’s profile piece on McNamee makes for interesting reading; it details his journey into realising the darker side of the tech giants, before his decision to campaign against their rising power.
- Disinformation on Facebook during Portugal’s 2019 parliamentary election: A new study reveals that disinformation was mostly aimed at the incumbent Partido Socialista and a small environmental party. Researchers found that Facebook Pages’ disinformation content was more subtle and engaging, while the Facebook groups included more amateur and explicit disinformation.
- Did Russian IRA trolls change the attitudes of American Twitter users in late 2017? New research suggests maybe not. While recognising the limitations of their study, the authors noted how their “results offer an important reminder that the American public is not tabula rasa and may not be easily manipulated by propaganda”.
Events and Announcements
- 3 December @ Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the EU, Brussels – Conference on Disinformation: Case studies from Georgia and the Western Balkans.
- 4 December @ Press Club, Brussels – White Supremacy: Confronting the culture of hate and extremism – Dialogue with Christian Picciolini.
- 10 December @ University of Latvia, Riga – COMPACT Riga Symposium Disinformation, Media Literacy and Social Media Regulation. A live stream will also be available here.