Disinfo News and Updates

  • Sounding the Alarm on the DSA. Discussions are moving forward in Brussels on granting media an exemption from being moderated by online platforms in the Digital Services Act. Nicolas Quénel, an independent journalist specialised in influence operations, sounded the alarm in French tech outlet Numerama, echoing concerns of many disinformation researchers in Brussels, in France or Germany. He warns that a broad and vague exemption – prohibiting platforms from moderating content from any ‘media’ or ‘journalist’ – could end up as a loophole for much more than “media” in the usual sense of the term, given that so many modern disinformation campaigns have a ‘media’ component. 
  • 60 Mintutes / 6 Hours.  Yesterday the former Facebook employee who leaked documents to the Wall Street Journal which became the Facebook Files, Frances Haugen, spoke on TV Show 60 minutes. Despite conspiracy theories circulating, this is unrelated to Facebook’s global outage of all its services for about six hours yesterday, which appears related to its domain.
  • YT versus RT. Last week YouTube deleted two German-language channels from Russian state-backed broadcaster Russia Today for repeated violations of the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. Also last week, YouTube moved to ban all vaccine misinformation and content that promotes vaccine hesitancy. (needless to say this would not be possible with the above DSA amendment)
  • Pegasus Payback. Hackers have set up a fake Amnesty International website and are impersonating the NGO to deliver malware while pretending to protect against the Pegasus spyware.
  • The Pandora Papers. On Sunday the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the Pandora Papers, millions of leaked documents uncovering the offshore havens and financial secrets of world leaders, public officials, billionaires and criminals.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU Institutions 

  • Code of Practice on Disinformation. On Friday, The European Commission announced the 8 new signatories of the future Code of Practice on Disinformation who will enter into negotiations with the existing signatories: Vimeo, Clubhouse, adtech provider DoubleVerify, Avaaz, Globsec, Logically, NewsGuard, and WhoTargetsMe. Euractiv spoke with EU DisinfoLab about the new code.
  • Voting on the Digital Services Act. The opinion of DSA rapporteur for the JURI (Legal Affairs) Committee Geoffroy Didier (EPP) was adopted last week. The amendments included quick deadlines for content removal, and an amendment preventing very large platforms from blocking or deleting media content in the name of their terms of service. There is now a great risk of this amendment ending up in the IMCO (Internal Market) Committee report.

In Member States

  • Finland. A report from Finnish intelligence points to Russia and China as the main perpetrators of cyber espionage operations.
  • Czechia. The Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI) is running a Czech Parliamentary Elections Dashboard ahead of the elections this week, with the support of the International Republican Institute’s Beacon Project.
  • Germany. ZDF Magazine and Who Targets Me collaborated on research into the targets of Facebook ads purchased by politicians, political institutions and public institutions during the German Parliamentary Election campaign. 

From the EU DisinfoLab:

We’ve been quite busy lately! Here’s a roundup of our latest publications:

  • After months of research, our Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour (CIB) detection tree is now complete with the publication of its fourth and last branch: The Authenticity Assessment.
  • We overview our previous OSINT investigations which have exposed the tactics and strategies of a range of disinformation actors, and discuss how the inconsistency, inaction and short-term responses by social media platforms limit the impact of our work.
  • In the lead up to the German Elections, we looked into the initiatives and tools by different stakeholders to safeguard election integrity and counter disinformation targeting the federal election.
  • Last but not least, we joined a call to EU Policymakers to ensure that the Digital Services Act addresses gender-based online violence through a systematic assessment of the risks posed by their services (Article 26).

Research, Reports, Twitter Threads …

  • Matthew Marinett from the University of Toronto addresses platform policies and enforcement actions targeting off-platform harassment and abuse by users, looking closely at the case of Twitch.tv.
  • Freedom House released their annual Freedom on the Net report, showing free expression online is under ‘unprecedented strain’ globally.
  • As the Facebook Files continue to make waves, former employee Samidh Chakrabarti‘s thread is an insightful read.

Events and Announcements

  • WeVerify is among the US-Paris Tech Challenge awardees!
  • October 7: The Netgain Partnership is hosting a webinar on Tech Whistleblowing: Resources, Ramifications, & Resiliency. Register here.
  • October 7 – 8: The annual Truth and Trust Online (TTO) conference will take place online. More info here.
  • The European Union is making EUR 3.75 million available for actions to support media freedom and investigative journalism. Call for proposals closes October 29. More here.