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A bad week for OSINT

For journalists, fact-checkers and NGO’s using Open-Source information to document disinformation, war crimes and propaganda, last week has just been hell. Just after Michael Bazzell’s website was hacked, forcing the very useful (and free) IntelTechniques tools to be removed (more info here on Michael’s podcast), Facebook also took a decisive step against OSINT community. 

By cutting off its Graph search tools, Facebook didn’t leave any possibility for the fact-checkers and journalists to search for public posts around keywords or UID. Meanwhile, Facebook also published a paper last week on preserving privacy while fostering meaningful research on elections and democracy. The company is describing some of the approaches it is taking towards external contributions on this issue.

To look at the first impact on the civil society: Nick Waters from Bellingcat had to launch a call for help on Twitter in order to document air strikes in Yemen. Facebook commented its decision saying they “paused” these features because they want to improve keywords search. This last move from Facebook raises many questions around how civil-society can act as a counter-power to assess accountability of malicious actors on platforms. A topic that will surely be heavily discussed at RightsCon this week in Tunis. Our workshop on building cross-expertise to fight disinformation is scheduled on Thursday 2 PM. Feel free to join.

EU vs Disinformation

A mysterious online campaign targeting leading European Commission presidential candidates Weber and Timmermans was featured on Google and Facebook, despite breaching both companies’ rules on political advertising. In fact, social media channels have witnessed numerous disinformation campaigns targeting the EU candidates. We have collected several reports related to the European parliamentary elections on this resources webpage. Additionally, an analysis of BBC Newsnight has illustrated how disinformation was spread in Facebook groups during the EU elections. The EU Observer has published six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections. It is to note that the upcoming EU DisinfoLab Webinar with ISD Global will elaborate on “Propaganda and Digital Campaigning in the EU Elections“. Join us on 20th of June at 16:00 CEST following this link.

Falling in the Deepfake

The development of new technologies and software tools does not seem to be always force for good. Today, with the latest examples of deepfake technology, users can add, delete, or change the words coming right out of somebody’s mouth. Scientists have shown that creating realistic fakes is becoming easier every day by designing a new technique to produce AI deepfakes that only requires entering in the text you want the person to say. The Witness Media Lab has explained the 11 things we can do now to prepare for deepfakes. Dr. Regina Rini, referring to the deepfake video of Nancy Pelosi in an opinion piece for the New York Times says: “You should only trust a recording if you would trust the word of the person producing it.”


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