Last Friday, we published work by our researcher Maria Giovanna Sessa tracking misogynistic disinformation during Covid-19. (more below). Next –  *tomorrow* –  we will be releasing what is likely our biggest investigation yet!

Sorry, I can’t say more right now… but Watch This Space!

Disinfo News and Updates

  • Collaborating Against Cybercrime. Law enforcement authorities from 26 EU Member States – in collaboration with Europol, the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre, and other third parties – have seized over 21,910 domain names selling counterfeit and pirated items. From counterfeit pharmaceuticals to pirated films to illegal software, the inventory had an estimated value of €2.5 million.
  • Addressing the Infodemic in Africa. The World Health Organization has launched the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA), a capacity-building alliance to coordinate actions and pool resources in response to COVID-19 misinformation.
  • Facebook to remove vaccine misinformation. Facebook has announced it will begin removing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines from the platform.
  • Van Buren v. United States. Last week the US Supreme Court heard a case that will push it to further interpret the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a sweeping law that has been abused in the past to criminalize innocuous online activity, for example the practice of web scraping (an essential activity for research, accountability, and innovation).

EU Policy Monitor

EU institutions at work

  • Commission releases the EDAP and MAAP. Last Thursday, the Commission released both the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP) and the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan (MAAP), a series of proposals to address disinformation, fortify election integrity, increase democratic participation and strengthen the media sector. While these are high level frameworks, not regulatory texts, regulation in many areas will follow, including through the Digital Services Act, which will establish a “co-regulatory backstop” in relation to a fortified Code of Practice on Disinformation.
  • DSA and DMA delayed. The Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act have been postponed to December 15th; the DMA’s ‘market investigation tool’ faces particular resistance. 
  • TERREG delayed. The final trilogue negotiations between the Parliament, the Commission and the Council which had been scheduled for this week on the EU’s hotly debated regulation on the dissemination of online terrorist content have also been pushed back at least a week.
  • NIS Directive Review. Within their review of the network and information security (NIS) directive, scheduled to be presented on December 15, the Commission also intends to update the EU’s cybersecurity rules and propose an expansion of the scope of ‘essential services’ covered by the rules.

INGE Committee Update

  • Vice President Vera Jourova took questions from Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) about the publication of the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP) during a session of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference on December 3rd (agenda). 
  • Vice President Jourova stressed that European democracy could not be taken for granted, and that through a combination of the EDAP and the DSA she was confident the Commission would introduce hard law to make large platforms more accountable.
  • VP Jourova focused her presentation on the measures needed to update the Code of Practice on Disinformation, highlighting five areas: i) higher standards of accountability for algorithms, ii) clearer rules on how researchers access data, iii) a call for platforms to reduce the monetisation of sponsored content, iv) stronger relations with fact-checkers, v) and a higher standard of integrity to limit the use of bots and fake accounts
  • MEPs from the largest political groups (EPP, S&D, Renew, Greens) welcomed the EDAP as a first step but were combative in saying it was not enough, that a co-regulatory approach was not sufficient to regulate disinformation and that the Commission needed to present clearer plans with timelines and an indication of the Commission’s readiness to introduce mandatory measures to limit the risks caused by legal but harmful content.

Misogyny and Disinformation: The Latest Research from EU DisinfoLab

On Friday EU DisinfoLab published a report tracking misogynistic disinformation during Covid-19, by researcher Maria Giovanna Sessa. For many months, we have been analysing how misogynistic narratives have been retrieved and adapted to fit within the mis- and disinformation landscape around COVID-19 – an event which has had a disproportionately negative impact on women’s rights.  The report adopts a disinformation methodological lens to analyse examples of gendered disinformation – specifically disinformation that relies on negative depictions of women. COVID-19 has confirmed the tendency of disinformation to adapt to the surrounding context. This stickiness applies to gendered disinformation in a transversal manner that affects various countries. Among our key findings: character-related disinformation has been leveraged systemically to undermine women’s political commitments. We study the International Women’s Day demonstrations (8M March) as an example. You can read the research here, and see our Twitter thread.

Research, Studies, Reports

  • Alina Polyakova and Daniel Fried have co-authored a report for CEPA, the US-based Center for European Analysis, entitled Democratic Offense Against Disinformation. Among many important considerations for the disinformation research and policy community on both sides of the Atlantic, the authors find that “a lack of coordination between Europe and the United States on policy responses to disinformation has produced two different tracks.”
  • The Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley Law School and the U.N. Office of Human Rights have published the first protocol on open source information evidence in international criminal and human rights investigations. The protocol establishes minimum standards for identifying, collecting, preserving, verifying and analysing social media content and other digital open source information.
  • Rafael Goldzweig and Madeline Brady of Democracy Reporting International have released a report on the disinformation challenge of deepfakes, stemming from interviews with 22 experts.
  • Mathias Vermeulen, Public Policy Director at AWO and Associate Fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, has written on the challenges and legal uncertainties of personal data sharing for research purposes, advocating for “a binding legal obligation for platforms to hand over data and a Code of Conduct on Access To Platform Data under Article 40 of the GDPR”.

Events, Announcements, Jobs