Good morning, Disinfo Update readers!

While the disinformation world never stops, this is our latest 2022 Disinfo Update edition as the EU DisinfoLab team will then enjoy a well deserved break, and return early January. We wish you, and your loved ones, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Thank you for all your continued support during 2022, and we look forward to collaborating & seeing you in the new year! 

Enjoy the read!

EU policy monitor 

  • Platforms accountability? The Online Safety Bill resurfaced last week. The UK government dropped the “legal but harmful material” provision. Contexte reports that the revised version requires platforms to provide tools for users to hide harmful content if they wish to do so. 
  • Trust & Safety Advisory Team. Elon Musk disbanded the Twitter Trust & Safety Council yesterday. The volunteer group provided expertise and guidance on how Twitter could better combat hate, harassment and other harms. 
  • Attempt of conspiracy coup. Twenty-five people, many of whom are part of the Reichsbürger group, gathering far-right people, have been arrested in Germany and suspected of plotting to overthrow the government. The group’s objective is to install a member of an old aristocratic family as leader of a new state. As Berlin expects more arrests, this audacious plot indicates an increased commitment – and radicalisation, which could go hand-in-hand with the growth of pandemic disinformation online.

What we’re reading

  • Media Freedom in Europe. The European Parliament is still to decide whether IMCO and LIBE  Committees will get specific competencies on the European Media Freedom file. The Conference of Committee Chairs is set to meet this week to discuss it. If no agreement is found, the decision will likely be pushed for January next year. In the meantime, – even if the question of Committee competencies is not finalised yet-, Committees started to appoint rapporteurs and shadows. MEP Geoffroy Didier was appointed as a rapporteur for the IMCO Committee. We hope for constructive work together as the MEP highlighted the importance of the Act in the fight against disinformation in the press release on the matter. “No journalist should be spied on because of their work, no public or private media should be turned into a channel of disinformation,” as reported by Contexte earlier this month. In the meantime, the Council finished its first examination of the text and presented its position. Amongst other things, some countries are questioning the legal basis of the Act. The incoming Swedish Presidency will aim to achieve the Council’s General Approach as the drafting starts next year, still to see if discussion will move fast enough for it to become a reality. The European Commission is still gathering input on the EMFA proposal and you can contribute by the 2nd of January, 2023. 
  • Any news on the DSA? The European Commission is still gearing up to be able to properly enforce the Regulation. Open consultation on the Delegated Act for audits is expected in the first quarter of 2023. Should you be eager for some food for thought on how the DSA will be tackling the disinformation challenge, watch the replay of the panel organised by Democracy Reporting International last week with contributions from Rita Jonusaite, EU DisinfoLab Advocacy Coordinator (from 2h:52). 
  • AI Act. The Council adopted their position on the AI Act on 6th of December. See the press release for more details. 
  • Right to dereference. The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued an order establishing a right to dereference and forcing Google to review its rules for applying the GDPR when the information requested to be removed is false. Until then, the search engine was assessing whether the information fell under the freedom of access to information.  

What we’re reading

  • Hate speech on the rise. Despite his claims, several new reports – the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Brookings Institution and the Anti-Defamation League – show that the volume of hate speech has dramatically jumped since Elon Musk took over Twitter.   
  • Trust & chatbots. Experts worry that the latest chatbot technologies could replace search engines and introduce serious issues with misinformation.  
  • 1 billion. That’s the number of views of TikTok Videos promoting the Wagner Group according to Newsguard which found that, despite platform rules, TikTok hosts hundreds of videos that use violence and music that celebrate the Russian mercenaries. 

EU DisinfoLab monthly trends

Highlights from our November monitoring of fact-checked disinformation in France, Germany, and Spain include:

  • In Germany, before a coup plot led by the Reichsbürger was discovered in December (see section “Disinfo news and updates”), hoaxes supporting the main ideas of that movement have been circulating for a few months. Related disinformation denies the sovereignty of the German state, i.e., claiming the state has no fiscal responsibility and, therefore, citizens must not pay taxes. The Football World Cup in Qatar also triggered disinformation, mainly criticising restrictive Qatari laws, but also the attempts of the German national team to support the LGTBI rights. Regarding the war in Ukraine, humor was instrumentalized for Pro-Russian narratives with a relevant role of the Russian comedians, Vovan and Lexus. One hoax claimed that, during a prank call, Ukraine’s controversial former Human Rights Commissioner had admitted that she had fabricated war crimes. 
  • In France, the main topic of disinformation debunked by fact-checkers in November was around Covid-19, at a pace that is again accelerating strongly. The Football World Cup in Qatar was also an important topic, as were the energy and economic crises. On the other hand, the number of disinformation items uncovered regarding the war in Ukraine dropped compared to previous months. Though, several media impersonations (Charlie Hebdo, Al-Jazeera) about this conflict were dealt with by French fact-checkers.
  • In Spain, the top five events that triggered disinformation in November were related to the World Cup, climate change, Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the demonstration for public health in Madrid. The number of hoaxes about the war in Ukraine have halved compared to October.  Pro-Russia content stands out, mostly about accusing Ukrainians of being Nazis and instrumentalization of the World Cup for that purpose.  

The latest from EU DisinfoLab

Events & announcements

  • 11 January. “How to Implement the DMA?” Register here for this CERRE event.
  • 28 February. Deadline to apply to the GIJC23 fellowships and attend next year’s Global Investigative Journalism Conference, on September 19-22 in Gothenburg, Sweden.  
  • 5-8 June. Tickets to the 12th edition of RightsCon are open. Register here. You have one month left to submit proposals for RightsCon Costa Rica.  
  • The CyberPeace Institute has launched its Humanitarian Cybersecurity Center (HCC) that assists NGOs in better protecting themselves against cyber attacks.