Preparing the ground for the Digital Services Act
In light of the prospective Digital Services Act (DSA), EDiMA — the trade association that represents the online platforms in Europe — has written to the European Commission to ensure the tech giants won’t be held liable for harmful content hosted on their platforms. In its letter, EDiMA argues for differentiation between liability and responsibility by putting forward an “Online Responsibility Framework,” but EDiMA does accept that some form of oversight is needed. According to Euractiv, adopting a common European approach to illegal content online won’t be easy, since varied Member State interpretations on the concept have been recently manifesting.
Fanning the bushfires
The Australian bushfires have birthed an abundance of disinformation and conspiracies. Within this, counter-narratives have been circulating online centred on the idea climate change isn’t the cause, but instead, arsonists and green activists are to blame for the fires. Such disinformation has been fanned by Twitter bots and trolls, according to research by Dr. Timothy Graham from Queensland University of Technology. In this context, The Guardian reported on how digital experts feel that this disinformation is yet more evidence that social media platforms are failing in their duty to act responsibly.
In the news
- Yesterday, Taiwan held its general election amid concerns over Chinese interference in the lead up to the election. Conversely, though, Foreign Policy argues that Taiwan’s war on disinformation may actually be hitting the wrong targets.
- In view of the perceived threat that deepfakes pose, Facebook announced its decision to ban deepfakes last Monday. However, critics have been quick to highlight the shortcomings of this policy, flagging that it won’t remove the most prominent visual disinformation.
- Disinformation for Hire: Buzzfeed has reported on how PR firms across the world are selling disinformation services. Buzzfeed noted how these PR campaigns have skyrocketed in the last year: there were 19 recorded for 2019 compared with just 2 in 2018.
- Insider recounts the story of the smear campaign against the UK based think-tank Institute for Statecraft, which was hacked and subsequently discredited by Russian state TV to reportedly sow chaos and disrupt British politics.
- ICYMI – The Oxford Internet Institute released its 2019 Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation, which analyses the trends of computational propaganda and the evolving tools, capacities, strategies, and resources.
- A new report by the National Endowment for Democracy explores how the ways in which we think drive disinformation. The authors note that, across geographic contexts, deeply polarised societies with low trust in the media appear more susceptible to psychological drivers of disinformation.
Events and Announcements
- Open Your Eyes — a project that we’re a part of — has launched its Check IT Out database, which is a collection of useful tools and initiatives to learn about online disinformation: what it is, how it spreads, and how to counter it.
- Twitter has increased its support of the research community by making its data accessible for use.
- 20 January @ European Parliament, Brussels – Workshop on identifying & tackling disinformation hosted by EU DisinfoLab (participants will need to have EP accreditation to attend). Please drop us an email to confirm your attendance.
- 4 February @ Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, Berlin – Digital Disinformation – the new standard in online election campaigns?