We’ve just concluded our annual conference. A huge thanks to all of our speakers and attendees. We’ll be releasing many of the session recordings soon on our website and YouTube channel over the next weeks. If you attended the event and haven’t shared your feedback yet, we’re eager to have your thoughts!

Covid-19 Conspiracies and Crowdfunding Platforms

EU DisinfoLab has been investigating the presence of Covid-19 related conspiracy theories on crowdfunding platforms (specifically Kickstarter, Patreon, GoFundMe, Indiegogo and Tipeee). Our research shows these platforms to be spaces for the indirect monetization of disinformation narratives, publications, and other projects. Despite the current policy focus on addressing disinformation on ‘gatekeeping’ platforms, there is an apparent policy and enforcement void on crowdfunding platforms. This represents an important terrain for policymakers, activists, and other stakeholders involved in responding to dis- and misinformation. Read our latest research blog post here.

Podcasts on Tech & Disinformation

For a slight change of pace and format — I thought I’d share a few podcasts from this past week that offer in depth analysis on the themes usually covered in this newsletter. Follow me down the podcast rabbit hole this week!

  • The second series of the Full Fact Podcast has just launched, led by Alexis Conran and the team at UK fact checking organisation FullFact.org. This first episode is about deep fakes.
  • MIT Technology Review has a podcast series called Deep Tech. In this episode, Moscow-based journalist Evan Gershkovich compares the regulation challenges of the Russian internet giant Yandex with regulation of major tech companies elsewhere in the world. 
  • Brookings’ Lawfare Podcast has a mini series on mis- and disinformation called the Arbiters of Truth hosted by Evelyn Douek  and Quinta Jurecic, which is, in general, essential listening on these topics. The latest episode looks at the Australian context, particularly misinformation surrounding wildfires and Facebook’s responsiveness to so-called “middle-power” countries.

In the news

  • The Chinese Cyberspace Administration and the state news agency Xinhua have released a smartphone app to run a campaign against online misinformation, the United Rumour Debunking Platform. Mini-programs will be run within major Chinese consumer apps, including Wechat and Alipay and Baidu. These programs will encourage users to fact-check content by steering them towards articles from official news media, government authorities and industry experts.
  • After the Canadian authorities have arrested the main subject of the popular series “Caliphate” under terrorism hoax laws for allegedly fabricating his terrorist involvement, the New York Times is re-examining this series.


  • Graphika together with Reuters has released a report on a Russian group suspected of interfering in the 2016 US election through the pseudo media outlet Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens (naebc[.]com), which includes the first spotting of Russian activity on the platforms Gab and Parler. Jack Stubbs broke the story for Reuters. Plus, Thomas Ridd has a tip for IO researchers on how to release this kind of thing.
  • Recent research with the Oxford Internet Institute on the inner workings of the media outlet Russia Today explores the organizational behavior and ‘gatekeeping’ processes’ that frame the news released by RT. Research included in person interviews with 23 RT journalists between January 2018 and March 2019. Mark Scott also has the story.

Good reads

  • Three years after the passage of Germany’s internet law, the Network Enforcement Act or NetzDG, many critics who were anxious about the implications for freedom of expression say that their worst fears have come to pass. Others say the law doesn’t go far enough. Politico has a timely analysis just as the an update is on the horizon. 
  • As technology continues to evolve faster than legislation and the gap between the public and private sectors widens beyond repair, Marietje Schaake offers some reflections and suggestions. “The Community of Democracies, a coalition of states that was created in 2000 to advance democracy but never had much impact, could be revamped and upgraded to include an ambitious mandate for the governance of technology.”

Events and Announcements

  • The UNDP & UNESCO are hosting a public consultation on combatting disinformation. The consultation will take place online over three weeks. More info and how to participate here.
  • On Thursday, US lawmakers introduced a bill taking aim at disinformation on social media 
  • The DFRLab’s Foreign Interference Attribution Tracker (FIAT) is an interactive, open-source database that captures allegations of foreign interference relevant to the 2020 election
  • Twitter’s new tool ‘Birdwatch’ seems like it will address misinformation by adding more context to tweets along with several other crowd-sourcing features.
  • 3 – 27 November – Applications are open for the first WHO training in infodemic management, an online training over 4 weeks
  • 5 October – 4 November – The Knight Center is offering a new MOOC “Digital investigations for journalists: How to follow the digital trail of people and entities”. Learn more here.
  • The Beacon Project, supposed by the IRI, is conducting an international mapping of the actors involved in responding to dis- and misinformation: contribute to their survey