The Infodemic, a game-changer?
Last week, we focused on the latest backlash faced by Facebook over its stance on moderating hate speech and disinformation, and it seems as though this dispute isn’t going away anytime soon. Last Thursday, Facebook’s Vice President Nick Clegg penned a letter to categorically refute the idea that Facebook profits from hate. At the same time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly told employees that he expects advertisers to return to the platform “soon enough”. Meanwhile, multiple online platforms banned certain hate speech and disinformation actors from their platforms last week. In light of this, Dr. Joan Donovan affirms that it’s no coincidence that this is happening during a pandemic, as COVID-19 mis/disinformation has “taught these companies an important lesson: They must—and they can—take decisive action to control who and what is on their sites”.
In sum, the COVID-19 infodemic could therefore be perceived as a turning point for both content moderation and protecting users online. Join us on 1st October where we will reflect on this as part of our virtual conference held from Monday 28th September to Friday 2nd October.
Drawing knowledge from the Infodemic
As the infodemic progressively subsides, research on various aspects and themes of infodemic continues to surface. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some key highlights for this week:
- Oxford Internet Institute has examined COVID-19 news and information from state-backed media outlets targeting French, German, and Spanish speaking social media users.
- Surveying 1,700 Americans online, a fresh study has found that people share COVID-19 related false information simply because they fail to sufficiently think about whether the content itself is accurate. You can find a concise summary of the study here.
- Concentrating on the offline effects of the infodemic, BBC News has reflected on the human cost of mis/disinformation in India.
- In Europe, independent fact-checkers have come together to detail the themes, narrative, and trends that have defined the infodemic in an extensive report.
- Utilising a digital ethnographic approach, Shorenstein Center has released a study analysing the COVID-19 disinformation narratives and conspiracies circulating within Black communities.
In the news
- Focusing (for now) on articles in English, Facebook’s algorithm has been tweaked to boost original reporting in an effort to elevate quality news and minimise mis/disinformation on its platform.
- Using recent examples, a new article sheds light on the lack of consensus among online platforms regarding what is the definition of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” which is problematic in that private companies are being left to determine the parameters of online political mobilisation.
- No more going viral: why not apply social distancing to social media? This article uses the social distancing analogy to advocate for preventative measures and the restructuring of social media networks to combat the virality of mis/disinformation.
- From cognitive dissonance to confirmation bias, in a new article, First Draft walks us through the different psychological terms that explain why we’re vulnerable to believing mis– and disinformation.
- As a guide for others observing social media during electoral periods, Democracy Reporting International has summarised the lessons learned from five projects that covered national elections across Europe in 2019 and 2020.
- A new study conducts a literature review and synthesises the research that focuses on the role that mainstream media play in the dissemination of disinformation, the reasons for such coverage, and its influences on the audience.
Events and Announcements
- Last week, the European Commission announced a €9 million tender for the creation of national fact-checking and research hubs tasked with fighting disinformation. The deadline for applications is 5 November. If you’re looking for more information about this tender, a webinar will be held on 16 July.
- Call for papers – Conference for Truth and Trust Online to be held between 16-17 October.
- For those residing in the UK, the BBC broadcasted a short documentary on Sunday that looks into how COVID-19 triggered the spread of 5G conspiracies.
- 7 July, 16:00-18:00 CEST @ German Council Presidency of the EU – Kick-off for the Digital Conference Series “Pluralism and Responsibility. Media in the Digital Society”.
- 7 July, 12:30 CEST @ Digital Platform S01 E03 – 2020 NetzDG Reforms & their Impact on the DSA
- 8 July, 20:30 CEST @ Data & Society Databite – Origins of Trust and Safety.
- 9 July, 15:00 CEST @ Atlantic Council webinar – Information in Iran: How recent global events are used to shape and skew reality.
- 10 July, 15:30 CEST @ Shorenstein Center webinar – Fighting a Two-Front War: Censorship and Disinformation in Southeast Asia.
- 27-30 July – RightsCon Online 2020.