The Digital Services Act public consultation closes today! This means a deep breath for Brussels folks before diving into the European Democracy Action Plan, a broader consultation looking at electoral integrity, disinformation, and media freedom and pluralism. The EDAP public consultation closes on 15/09 so be sure to respond before then. Today is also your first full newsletter from Claire after Lauren’s sad departure. Lauren, you will be missed!
QAnon and Covid-19 conspiracies: not just a US problem.
In the United States, the bizarre online cult around QAnon has created a narrative that President Donald Trump is facing off against secret networks and the ‘deep state’. (By the way, for those looking for a deeper explanation of QAnon, The Atlantic has it for you). But anti-mask, anti-lockdown demonstrations in Europe are showing the extent to which QAnon theories are being linked to the health crisis and the anti-vaccine movement. Protesters in the UK have been promoting QAnon theories and related narratives and asserting that the virus is a hoax. In Germany, a country that has done relatively well addressing the health situation, QAnon is finding fertile ground as many lash out against COVID-19 measures. It looks like the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands are the European countries discussing QAnon most on Twitter. Graphika has recently released a report on conspiracies and the virus that tracks the spread of QAnon narratives, that offers important insights about its transnational paths: “Often, the introduction of a new cluster engaging with the QAnon topic aligned with a spike in COVID-19 infection rates in the respective country. For example, during this time a conservative Italian cluster began to consistently participate in the QAnon conversation….”
EU DisinfoLab (Virtual) Annual Conference
Join us from Monday 28 September to Friday 2 October between 14:15-16:30 CEST for the 2020 edition of our annual conference. On the opening day, we’ll explore the few faces of disinformation with Sleeping Giants Co-founder Nandini Jammi, who will deliver a keynote speech on the issues with programmatic advertising, and what Sleeping Giants has done to demonetise websites that spread disinformation. We’ll then be joined by Graphika’s Camille François who will interview Mirko Ceselkoski – the “fake news” strategist from Macedonia – and reflect on Mirko’s experience of the 2016 US election where he profited from creating and spreading election-related disinformation.
IN THE NEWS
- Russian disinformation on Facebook and Twitter is targeting the US elections, primarily using a website called PeaceData. Lots of major outlets are covering this, but you should be sure to check out Graphika’s report, as well as these tweets by Thomas Rid and Mark Scott!
- More than half of young Africans do not consider Facebook a trustworthy news according to a survey reported on in Quartz, suggesting that the platform’s local language fact-checking efforts haven’t been a silver bullet.
- A study on misinformation shared through top-level coronavirus-related domain names highlights weaknesses in the current domain registration system, “where covid19.bz, .mx and .se live in parallel.”
- The Stanford Research Observatory has investigated a network of Pakistan-based Facebook and Instagram accounts, which were suspended for ‘Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior’ in efforts to silence accounts that were critical of Islam and the Pakistani government.
- Brendan Nyhan explores the power of misperception, which “threatens to warp mass opinion, undermine democratic debate, and distort public policy on issues ranging from climate change to vaccines.”
- Just a little bit more here about QAnon for you, because there is always an important gender angle to consider.
EVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
- Twitter says it will provide more context to trending topics, a feature that has served to amplify mis- and disinformation.
- Facebook announced that it will be changing its terms of service globally beginning in October “to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts to Facebook”.
- Facebook will block new political advertisements in the United States a week before election
- 15 – 16 Sept – CJR and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism are holding a two-day online symposium about COVID and the fight against racism.
- 17 Sept, 16h EST – WITNESS and the MIT Open Documentary Lab ‘Deepfakery’ conversation series continues with a talk on journalists and activists. Info here.
- Data & Society is hiring a Managing Director.
- ISD is hiring for a few positions at the moment.
- EDiMA is looking for a Policy Assistant (internship)
- The Reuters Institute’s News Trust Fellowship is for journalists from the U.S., UK, India and Brazil.
- The Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program has opened its competition for the 2021-2022 year.
- The International Forum is hiring a Program Officer for democracy and emerging technology