Save the Date – On Thursday 19th November from 3-4pm CET, the EU DisinfoLab is hosting Avaaz, the global campaigning and research organisation, for an online discussion on Avaaz’s new research showing loopholes in Facebook’s enforcement measures, emerging threats and techniques of disinformation seen during the US elections and potential learnings for the EU’s next European Parliament elections in 2024 and upcoming Digital Services Act. The webinar is entitled “Regulating Disinformation in the EU – Cautionary Tales from the US Elections”. Stay tuned for more details. 

Also, we are collaborating with the Lifelong Learning Platform to offer workshops for curious minds looking to learn more about disinformation as a phenomenon and how to detect and respond to it! Sound like you? Claim your spot!

Disinfo News and Updates

  • OSCE Observation Report. According to international observers, the U.S. election was generally fair and well-managed, despite Trump and his campaign’s “baseless allegations of systemic fraud.”Politico has the write-up. 
  • Platforms’ Promises. Colin Lecher at The Markup overviews how well Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube delivered on their election promises around misinformation, while Emily Birnbaumand and Issie Lapowsky at Protocol weigh in on the effectiveness of labeling among the strategies deployed.
  • Meanwhile, on TV. Television networks have had considerable work to do to address dis- and misinformation, much of it coming straight from the top
  • Perception Hacking. Unsupported allegations of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, often drawing on hyperlocal voting irregularities, were amplified on social media.
  • Spanish-Language Misinformation. On Thursday, Avaaz said it has found at least 43 Spanish-language social media posts promoting false narratives. This may have much to do content moderation practices’ strong bias for English.
  • Stop the Steal’. Facebook is staying vigilant regarding election-related violence and incitement trends on the platform, in groups, as well as on Instagram.

Other News

  • Erdogan Cracks Down on Platforms. Turkey has fined five social media companies – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok  – for failing to appoint a local representative, as required by a controversial new law.
  • Covid19 Misinformation in Albania. Fringe media outlets, aided by social media, are feeding false and unsubstantiated claims, including conspiracy theories related to the virus.
  • UK Rights Group takes Regulator to Court. Following a complaint launched in September about systemic GDPR breaches by the AdTech industry, the Privacy Campaigners at the Open Rights Group (ORG) will be taking the ICO (the UK’s privacy regulator) to court for failure to take substantive action.
  • Wayback Machine Begins Fact Checking. The Internet Archive has begun annotating articles and providing contextual information in its Wayback Machine in order to address false and misleading information.
  • “Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior”. On Friday, Facebook announced said it had dismantled seven networks of fake assets on the platform, which had been active in Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Myanmar, Georgia, and Ukraine, many of which were spreading political content.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU institutions

  • Code of Practice on Disinformation. The Commission has released a third set of reports from the signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation. These reports document actions by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and TikTok during the month of September. Once again, the data is found insufficient at the Member State level. 
  • Terrorist Content Regulation. The JHA Counsellors Meeting on terrorist content online took place on 5 November. The German Presidency’s proposal was discussed.
  • Cybersecurity-by-design. The German Presidency is calling for heightened cybersecurity standards  — horizontal standards across all connected devices throughout their life cycle. 
  • Digital Services Act. The Commission announced that it will introduce fines and sanctions for platforms that repeatedly violate the new regulatory obligations on illegal content. Meanwhile, according to the Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), the Digital Services Act is necessary but must avoid infringements of the freedom of expression notably by distinguishing between illegal and harmful content. And finally, MEP Sandro Gozi (Renew) is advocating for strict control over content moderation, including through due diligence principles, harmonized reporting, strengthened transparency and “know your business customer” requirements. 
  • Special Committee on Foreign Interference and Disinformation (INGE). Yesterday evening, MEPs heard from Dmitri Trepak (International Centre for Defence and Security), Christophe Deloire (Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders), and Gianni Riotta (Princeton University and LUISS Data Lab). Watch again here. The next INGE session will take place on Thursday 12 November at 4.45pm CET with speakers from France’s cybersecurity agency ANSSI, Atlantic Council and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In Member States

  • Spain. The Spanish Government has formed a committee to combat disinformation and the “deliberate, large-scale and systematic dissemination of false messages” that “seek to influence society for self-serving and spurious purposes”. Faced with criticism for tending towards censorship, the government claims that the plan is aligned with the European Democracy Action Plan.
  • France. A judge has convicted the author of a conspiracy video alleging that the Coronavirus was created and patented by the Institut Pasteur. Also in France, the permanent contact group, formed in 2015 by the Interior Ministry, resumed service last week under the leadership of the Minister Delegate for Citizenship Marlene Schiappa.

Podiums and Platforms

Platforms’ management of mis- and disinformation was one of the major news stories of the 2020 US election cycle, and the role of a handful of social media platforms in politics is certain to continue grabbing headlines. Many eyes were on Facebook and Twitter, yet other services proved problematic – including Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and NextDoor. In addition, YouTube, TikTok, and live streaming in general have emerged as new challenge areas. And as First Draft reported, Google Search holds immense responsibility in supplying voting information. This election also reminded many of us — especially those more prone to scrolling through a feed than to flipping channels — just how much still happens on TV and traditional media, beyond the paradoxically walled gardens of ‘social.’ Narratives travel through many mouths and across diverse channels; they find amplification and resonance in some spaces, and face resistance and friction in others. Perhaps under new leadership the US will suffer less from misinformation, but removing a podium cannot erase the pundit, just like adding labels cannot fully bridge the perceptions of a divided nation. The underlying information infrastructure and its disorders are here to stay — or rather, to continually change. Much of the work in areas like election integrity therefore lies beyond ‘platform deterministic’ logic, and will demand more than a platform by platform approach.

Research, Studies & Games

  • Graphika has released a report on Iranian operators impersonating anti-Netanyahu so-called so-called “Black Flag” protests in Israel over Instagram and other Facebook assets.
  • The Stanford Internet Observatory has also released an analysis following recent Facebook takedowns of information operations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Researchers from Clemson University have created a quiz called “Spot the Troll” to train people to identify spam accounts and hoaxes.
  • Researchers from Cambridge University have created an online game, Harmony Square which aims to work as a psychological “vaccine” by exposing people to political misinformation techniques.

Events and Announcements

  • 16, 17 & 19 Nov. EU DisinfoLab and Lifelong Learning Platform are co-hosting disinformation detection labs for the community. Sign-up for one here
  • 19 Nov. 3pm CET. Join us for a webinar with Avaaz, “Regulating Disinformation in the European Union – Cautionary Tales from the US Elections”. More info soon.
  • 20-21 Nov. The Wikimedia-Yale Law School Initiative on Intermediaries and Information is hosting an event on the global impacts of content moderation. Register here.
  • 26 Nov. VUB-IES will have the third installment of their series on the DSA #3 with Dr. Inge Graef. Register here.
  • Euro-Mediterranean Seismic Centre (EMSC) is accepting abstracts regarding misinformation related to hazards and risks at the next EGU conference in April 2021.
  • The World Health Organization is issuing a survey of COVID-19 fact-checkers to learn about existing efforts in fact-checking COVID-19 related health information. Complete the survey here or share it within your ecosystem. We greatly appreciate your time in completing this survey.