We’re halfway through this exciting and busy month of June, and we’re glad we had several opportunities to meet and catch up with many of you during those recent in-person disinformation conferences.
These past two weeks have also marked the launch of our new publication category: Technical Documents, which we hope you’ll find insightful and informative. We’ve released the DSA User-Guide, and the impact-risk index of disinformation, inspired by Ben Nimmo’s breakout scale.
Here are a few more opportunities to connect with us, and we hope you’ll appreciate this selection of latest disinformation stories, updates from the European policy landscape, and upcoming events.
Enjoy your read!
Disinfo news and updates
- Access to information. The Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, has filed an appeal against the Moscow Court order to remove “prohibited” content about the Ukraine war. The Court had fined the foundation for refusing to remove articles about the Russian invasion. The Wikimedia Foundation argues that “information on Wikipedia should be protected by freedom of expression and does not constitute disinformation, as found by the Court.”
- Ad draining campaign. Check My Ads, a US non-profit organisation aiming to defund online disinformation, has launched a new campaign against Fox News to strip advertising dollars. The group is calling on citizens to “pressure online ad exchanges to stop doing business with Fox”, amid “growing calls from online advertising watchers for more transparency and accountability in the complex industry that is digital advertising.”
- Censorship scares. Twenty-three international media groups have called on Turkey’s parliament to dismiss a “disinformation” bill, which they fear could be used to censor journalists by bringing further restrictions on online freedom of expression and media freedom.
EU policy monitor
- Code of Practice on Disinformation. The revised version of the Code is being launched this Thursday, June 16. At the official event, the prospective signatories that worked on the revamp of the Code are expected to fine-tune and further develop the work, including the development of more detailed indicators. The question that still needs to be answered is how in practice the Code will work as a co-regulatory mechanism once the DSA is in place.
- Digital Services Act (DSA). The vote on the DSA is expected in COREPER I on Wednesday, June 15, and the vote in IMCO on June 16, followed by a Plenary vote the week of July 4, together with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). While the text has been agreed during the informal Trilogue negotiations back in April, this is a part of the official procedure where the co-legislators have to approve the agreed text before it becomes the law. ICYMI, the EU DisinfoLab team prepared a User-Guide to the Digital Services Act that will help you understand how the DSA will contribute to the fight against disinformation, and more specifically, how it will be useful for your work on disinformation! On July 5, the EU DisinfoLab team will host a webinar to present the DSA User Guide, register here.
- AI Act. The joint IMCO/LIBE Committees’ report received more than 3000 amendments. Now, the Co-rapporteurs will aim to find compromises with an objective to have the European Parliament position set by the end of the year. The French Presidency presented the progress report in the Telecom Council. The Council is hopeful that the Czech Presidency will be able to achieve the General Approach by the end of its Presidency, as this is also one of its key legislative priorities.
- European Media Freedom Act. Set to be put forward by the Commission at the end of June, the proposal for a new law on media freedom and pluralism is most likely delayed until September 2022. It will reportedly have a chapter on online content moderation practices. The EU DisinfoLab will keep an eye on the proposal to make sure that it does not override or contradict what has been agreed under the Digital Services Act, including the so-called “media exemption”.
- Czech Presidency updates. While the official reveal of the Czech Presidency priorities is due today, this leak indicates that they will strongly be focusing on cyber security, including a development of the Hybrid Toolbox, a set of voluntary instruments that among other things will aim to address disinformation.
- RT versus the Council. On Friday June 10, The Council of the European Union defended itself against the grievances of RT (Russia Today) France before the Court of Justice of the European Union. RT France has appealed the channel’s blocking, holding that only the French regulator Arcom is competent to sanction inappropriate editorial content, and that the blocking is not proportionate to regarding freedom of expression and freedom to conduct a business and discrimination on the basis of nationality. Regarding the latter, the Council argues that the ban is based “on the role of the applicant as a vehicle for the dissemination of war propaganda of the Russian government” and not on the sole nationality of the company that finances it. The CJEU decision is not expected for several months.
What we’re reading
- Migrant TikTok. Betsy Joles looks into the TikTok ecosystem of content made for migrants by migrants, and often used to promote dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean sea, through videos which are difficult to moderate.
- Uvalde massacre & platforms. Tech companies have been building systems to detect violent threats. Days prior to the Uvalde massacre, the school shooter was using Yubo to threaten rape and school shootings. Why didn’t those reporting systems work? Casey Newton points out that “the least that Yubo and other platforms can do now is offer us some evidence that those alarms are actually plugged in.”
EU DisinfoLab monthly trends
The disinformation landscape in Germany, Spain and France in May presents some clear similarities. Across those three countries, we’ve found that the war in Ukraine isn’t the main event unleashing disinformation, and that Covid-19 makes a slight comeback, with cross-narratives around Monkeypox. For more details about each country, take a look below:
- In Spain, the Monkeypox and the Uvalde massacre were used to push different narratives, and there were an increasing number of anti-vaccine stances. Anti-vaxxers are trying to validate their previous arguments about the side effects of vaccines by linking them to cases of childhood hepatitis and to the Monkeypox. Anti-migrant narratives, especially against populations of Moroccan origin, were fueled by the Champions League final, and by the incidents that occurred in Paris. The massacre in Texas also rekindled theories about “The Great Replacement”.
- In Germany, we have seen disinformation topics unrelated to the war in Ukraine, including the regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia – held on May 15 – that triggered disinformation mostly targeting the Green Party. Monkeypox also marginally emerged as a disinformation topic, triggering familiar narratives such as conspiracy and denialism. The topic also has the potential to trigger racism and homophobia. Not surprisingly, cross-narratives between Covid-19 and Monkeypox emerged, connecting the Astrazeneca vaccine with the Monkeypox.
- In France, a high number of disinformation items related to the pandemic come from the “Pfizer documents”, leaked papers which allegedly reveal weaknesses of the anti-Covid-19 vaccine. Those are not “false news” per se as the documents which elaborate on those hoaxes exist, but they have been interpreted or presented in a twisted way, including this screenshot of a confidential document that reveals that Pfizer concealed the danger of its vaccine for pregnant and breastfeeding women, or that French people were to have “up to ten booster doses” per year.
The latest from EU DisinfoLab
- Towards an impact-risk index of disinformation: Measuring the virality and engagement of single hoaxes. The EU DisinfoLab impact-risk index offers an approach to assess the potential impact of single hoaxes. The method goes through a list of eight indicators related to the virality and engagement of a single disinformative content.
- User-Guide to the EU Digital Services Act. This Digital Services Act User-Guide, our first Technical Document, will answer all the questions you might have about the upcoming DSA, a groundbreaking law on internet safety and platform accountability.
- Room for improvement. Analysing redress policy on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. This article reviews how users can appeal (in)action taken against content and/or accounts on four major social media platforms. It provides policy advice in the context of the next steps of the DSA, in particular Article 17 re internal complaint handling and redress mechanisms.
- Want to get rich? Apply today and join the Illuminati! This investigation identifies online English-speaking groups that, through diverse platforms, offer users the possibility to become members of the Illuminati secret society upon payment of a membership fee. The study unveils an under-investigated phenomenon, which combines potential online scams and dangerous conspiracy beliefs.
Events & annoucements
- June 15: Register here to the International Republican Institute workshop on “Online Communication Strategies” from 3 to 4:30PM CET.
- June 22: Join the “Boost your cyber skills: Cybersecurity event for non-profits” session, organised by the CyberPeace Institute and CAGI, and register here.
- June 29: AI4Media organises a stakeholder consultation “Towards Policy recommendations in the field of AI and media.” Register here.
- July 5: Register now to our EU DisinfoLab Webinar on the DSA User-Guide. Rita Jonusaite, Advocacy Coordinator, and Claire Pershan, Policy Coordinator, will answer disinformation-related questions you have about the DSA tools, rights and application.
- The recordings from our EDMO BELUX webinars, “An analysis of recommendation algorithms on YouTube against disinformation in Belgium,” by the CrossOver project are available on our YouTube channel: in English and in French. The CrossOver investigation is available in English and in French.
- The Brown School of Public Health launches the Information Futures Lab (IFL) to combat misinformation, data deficits, outdated communication practices and to catalyse innovation. The IFL will be co-directed by Claire Wardle, founder of the non-profit First Draft, and Professor of the Practice at SPH, and Stefanie Friedhoff, Professor of the Practice at SPH. Sign up here for updates on this new initiative!
- Arcom, the French regulator for social media, has launched a public consultation open to countries outside of France on access to data from online platforms for research purposes. You have until July 22 to send your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- #ShePersisted has developed a Digital Resilience Toolkit outlining the steps that women in leadership positions can take to lessen the harms they face online. You can download the guide here.
- Panoptykon, the Digital Rights organisation, has released a FAQ on the Digital Services Act in Polish.
- The Global Disinformation Index is hiring a few different profiles.
- Bellingcat is looking for an Open Source Investigator.
- CERRE has several open positions. You can check them here.
- Konnektiv Kollektiv GmbH is recruiting a front-end developer and a PHP Developer.
- IRI has several opportunities for service contractors to join their team. Find them out here.