Disinfo News and Updates
- Identity Hijacking. Spreaders of disinformation are increasingly hijacking reporters’ identities (names, photos, bylines) to make their content appear more legitimate. In a similar vein, last week Facebook removed hundreds of Instagram accounts that had been hacked and sold for their ‘high-value’ usernames.
- Internet Shutdown in Myanmar. Myanmar’s military rulers have disrupted internet connection – including blocking access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp – as thousands protest last week’s coup d’etat.
- Platforms on Misinformation. Yesterday Facebook made a series of announcements regarding new measures to promote high-quality information about COVID-19 vaccines, “the largest worldwide campaign”. Last week TikTok announced more measures for users who try to share videos with misleading information. According to the company their new labeling reduced the sharing rate by 24 percent.
EU Policy Monitor
In the EU Institutions
- E-Privacy Directive. Online advertisers are calling on France to help preserve publishers’ ability to share user-identifying data with third parties. The trade association Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) expressed their concerns about measures in the directive to the Permanent Representation of France to the EU.
- E-Evidence Proposal. Negotiations are soon to begin on the e-evidence legislation, which seeks to simplify cross-border access by law enforcement agencies to electronic evidence which is held by a service in another member state. Statewatch published a preparatory document from the Council ahead of the February 10th trialogue.
- Council Working Party on Cyber. The EU’s Horizontal Working Party on Cyber Issues will meet today (February 9nd) to discuss the union’s new cybersecurity strategy.
In Member States
- Slovakia. A new Slovakian initiative, SOPHIA (Slovak Network of Experts against Hybrid Attacks) seeks to link institutions and organizations tackling disinformation in the country. European Commission vice-president for values and transparency Vera Jourova has praised the initiative.
- Italy. The new audio-based social media platform Clubhouse is under fire by the Italian data protection authorities for its use of data and security protections, following similar concerns raised in Germany.
- Germany. German media ZDF Magazin Royale has released “Frontex Files”. The outlet worked with researchers and the ngo Frag den Staat to study documents from meetings held between the EU’s Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, and industry representatives – including those of weapons companies and producers of surveillance and biometric identification equipment. The documents were all obtained under the EU’s freedom of information law.
EU DisinfoLab Executive Director Published in Brookings
On Friday, EU DisinfoLab’s Executive Director, Alexandre Alaphilippe published an article with The Brookings Institution, “Disinformation is evolving to move under the radar”. Illustrating the phenomenon with examples from EU DisinfoLab’s research, he explains how disinformation is leveraging the ‘passive’ infrastructure of social media for amplification: “Active measures include the production and dissemination of disinformation through content production, publication, paid and/or coordinated amplification, while the passive ecosystem includes the mechanisms that allow this content to be hosted and spread, and sometimes to hide ownership, such as DNS infrastructure, adtech, and algorithmic recommendation.” The architecture of this passive ecosystem facilitates and even encourages transplatform disinformation activities, for example: “the hosting of content on a less moderated platform, amplifying it on another, and monetizing it through crowdfunding“. It is time to open the black box of online distribution, he argues. “There is no accountability without transparency. Stemming the spread of online disinformation requires defining sanctions for malicious actors and the online architecture that allows disinformation to spread.”
Research, Studies, Long Reads…
- A recent report from Graphika looks at efforts by a pro-Chinese propaganda network (dubbed “Spamouflage” by Graphika) – to “break out of its echo chamber of fake accounts and reach real social media users”, including high profile influencers.
- The Institute for Strategic Dialogue has released a study into two websites and two blogging accounts which appear to be linked to the Crimea-based, pro-Kremlin news organisation, News Front.
- Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows how Facebook’s tools enable content creators to raise money while spreading conspiracy theories or outright misinformation about the pandemic and vaccines.
Events and Announcements
- First Draft has launched its Vaccine Insights hub, with resources and initiatives to tackle health misinformation. Visit the hub here.
- Applications are open for DFR Lab’s 360/Digital Sherlocks online training program. Students, independent journalists, and members of civil society are invited to apply here before February 17th.
- 2 March – ACT is hosting a conversation with team behind the film “The Social Dilemma” and leading media policy thinkers. Info and registration here.
- 24 – 26 March – CfP will hold “The First Annual Conference of a Platform Governance Research Network”. (Deadline for submissions is February 22nd). More info here.
- DFRLab has an open position for a Resident Fellow with expertise on China.
- Berlin-based search engine Ecosia is looking for a Data Privacy Officer (remote).
- The regional internet registry RIPE NCC is hiring for several positions, including External Relations Officer.
- The National Democratic Institute is hiring for two positions on their Democracy and Technology team: Disinfo and Cyber.