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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.”
- The EU DisinfoLab has published its article on the Media Literacy session of the EU DisinfoLab Annual Conference that took place on 29/09. The session was part of the European project ‘Open Your Eyes‘.
- The publicly available presentations of speakers of the EU DisinfoLab conference and a selection of photos are available here.
- Social media platforms have become overrun with fake news, creating the need for smart AI-based filters to separate fact from fiction.
- Fact-checkers launch Instagram, WhatsApp and Telegram stickers to gently warn about false news.
- The Global Disinformation Index has published its Weekly Reading List.
- Twitter has entirely rewritten its policies on Platform Manipulation and Spam.
- Naturalnews, a far-right conspiracy website promoting vaccine disinformation and mass arrests of the left, was banned by Facebook.
- Nigeria’s “Fake News” Ecosystem: The exponential growth in use and availability of mobile phones with access to the Internet, as well as the sheer amount of information accessible online, has made filtering out false information difficult.
Calendar and announcements
- 11-12 June @ Riga: Riga Stratcom Dialogue 2019.
- 13 June at 2:15pm – 3:30pm @ Tunis: Session on “How to build civil society cross-expertise in response to disinformation” hosted by EU DisinfoLab at RightsCon Summit.
- 19-20 June @ UNESCO Headquarters in Paris: 63rd meeting of the International Programme for the Development of Communication.
- 20-21 June @ London: DFR Lab Digital Sherlocks 360/OS.
- 25 June @ Brussels, European Parliament: #MEDIA4DEMOCRACY: Strategy for media ecosystem 2019-2024, with ‘Democracy Commissioner’ and ‘MEP media intergroup‘.
- KnightFoundation launches its podcast series that examines how museums and cultural institutions are evolving to keep pace with a changing world.