Hello and welcome to your Disinfo Update which is changing editorial hands. Thank you Claire Pershan for your insights and perspectives over the last 18 months. I am Laetitia Devant, Communications and Events Manager, and I will be bringing your bi-weekly round-up of disinformation news, initiatives, events, etc. If you have any suggestions, feedback or something you’d like to share, feel free to send me an email. Enjoy your read!

Ukraine Conflict: Reliable Resources 

  • Ukraine conflict resource hub: We have created a resource hub dedicated to the Ukraine conflict on our website. It gathers information on the latest developments, trustworthy analysis and fact-checks to help you navigate the conflict. You can also find useful tips and ways to combat mis— and disinformation, as well as responses brought to counter disinformation.  
  • Ukraine Taskforce: The European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) has set up a taskforce dedicated to disinformation about the war in Ukraine, of which we are a member. It will focus on collecting material to help understand disinformation trends active in Europe and the EEA countries and the Balkans.

Disinfo News and Updates

  • Responses to Russian propaganda: While the EU has banned state-owned Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik and their subsidies, tech companies have been under pressure to limit the spread and algorithmic amplification of Russian trolling and disinformation campaigns. Amongst others, Twitter said it will label content from all state-affiliated Russian media; Facebook announced it is blocking access to Russian state media in the EU; and Google, YouTube, and Facebook claimed they are blocking Russian state media from running ads. Reddit and Apple have entered the fray (more in our Hub). However, a recent study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate on Facebook showed that “91% of 1,304 posts containing articles from Kremlin-funded media did not carry any warning labels”. Over the weekend, Russia responded to those measures by blocking Facebook and restricting access to Twitter. Russia has also cut access to several independent foreign media, including the BBC and DW.
  • Open-source information: Peter Aldhous and Christopner Miller in this BuzzFeed News piece reflect on how OSINT is playing a role in this conflict. By proving what is happening on the ground through satellite images, “governments no longer control information from the front lines nor the narratives”.
  • Covid Infodemic down: The spread of disinformation related to the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly decreased recently on social media. “The usual deluge of invective prompted by coronavirus and vaccine issues is absent – Russia’s invasion may be a factor,” says Melody Schreiber in The Guardian

EU Policy Monitor 

  • Digital Services Act (DSA) negotiations are moving forward with near daily technical discussions, but slower progress than expected. The key debates are around the use of algorithms, marketplaces, targeted ads, exceptions for SMEs, and access to data. The third political Trilogue will take place on the 15th of March and hopes to deliver some bigger progress.
  • DSA – Ukraine: There is an increasing attention given by the key political stakeholders to how DSA could contribute to the fight against disinformation in the context of the war in Ukraine. We have an idea, see the Twitter thread here
  • DSA Compromises: The French Presidency has put forward compromises on Articles 1, 1a, 2 (partial), 6, 7, 8, 9, 9a, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 36, 37, 38, 39 while the European Commission made suggestions for the compromises on articles 14, 15a, 17, 18. Importantly, the proposed compromise on Article 17, internal-complaint handling, threatens to weaken this article by narrowing the scope of what users can complain about and likely pushing disinformation out of scope. Finally, lead Parliament rapporteur Christel Schaldemose (S&D) has also put forward her suggestions regarding article 14 on notices, market places and codes of conduct. 
  • Code of Practice: The Code of Practice on Disinformation revision process is nearing its end. It is expected that the drafting will be done and the updated Code will be out by the end of March. The process is also gearing up because of the Ukrainian crisis and demand for European level tools to counter disinformation. However, a number of the third party stakeholders involved in the revision process have recently issued a statement criticising the quality of the consultation process demanding to make it more meaningful. 

Insights & Good Reads

  • Civil society actors are raising their voices to demand more transparency in DSA and DMA Trilogues that so far have been very difficult to access for NGOs working on these files. See their letter here.
  • This National Endowment for Democracy (NED) article highlights the correlation between the Covid-19 pandemic and a worldwide rising corruption.
  • Citizen Lab released a report on the digital dimension of transnational repression – states applying repressive policies to silence or coerce nationals located outside their territorial borders. 

Events and Announcements

  • March 9: “The DSA: a step closer to a safer online environment”. Register here for this webinar organised by the Slovak Alliance for Innovation Economy (SAPIE) and Coalition for Digital Ads of SMEs. 
  • March 10-11: “Fact-checking: Challenges for journalists”. Register here for this online seminar tackling challenges fact-checking raises for journalists, featuring Maria Giovanna Sessa, our in-house researcher. 
  • March 18: EDMO BELUX is organising a cross-community Network Exchange in the afternoon of March 18 for anyone countering disinformation in their respective fields in Belgium and Luxembourg. More information here.
  • June 7: The first OSINT & Cyberinvestigation Day will be held in Lille during the FIC. Alexandre Alaphilippe, EU DisinfoLab’s Executive Director, is one of the guest speakers. 
  • The CrossOver project launched its dashboards which monitor and analyse the algorithms of social networks in Belgium, exposing how they can lead to mis- and disinformation. It also published its first blogpost on what data is collected on the dashboards. 
  • To all researchers and investigators, you can help Bellingcat by taking this survey and sharing which tools you use. It will help them decide which open source tools to build! 
  • The CyberPeace Builders program enables humanitarian NGOs to build cybersecurity capabilities for free. More information to support or receive their support here.