Disinfo News and Updates

  • India’s Twitter Alternative. After Twitter denied demands by the Indian government to block hundreds of accounts – including of journalists – Indian microblogging app Koo is rising in popularity among government officials and celebrities.
  • Shutting Down the Club. The Chinese government has blocked the social media platform Clubhouse after users were debating sensitive political topics. Elsewhere, Clubhouse has faced scrutiny from data protection authorities in Europe, as well as criticism for its barriers to fact-checkers, journalists, and persons with disabilities
  • BBC World News Banned in China. Last week the Chinese government also banned BBC World News for its alleged “slew of falsified reporting” on issues related to the Xinjiang region and the Coronavirus.
  • The Plandemic Playbook. Planet Lockdown, a Covid-19 conspiratorial pseudo-documentary, was seen millions of times, and in multiple languages, before platforms supressed it for violating terms of service. The video’s GoFundMe campaign has been banned, but the video’s website still offers some workarounds for those who want to see, share, or support the project.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU Institutions

  • INGE Committee Extended. According to Contexte, the Conference of Presidents has approved a six-month extension of the Parliament’s special committee on foreign interference in democratic processes (INGE) – until March 2022 rather than September 2021. The decision must still be approved in plenary.
  • Combating gender-based violence. The executive has launched its consultation on combating gender-based violence, including questions on digital platforms’ response to harassment, private information sharing, identity theft, human trafficking and gendered hatespeech. The initiative measures the need to revise European law to combat such forms of violence. Submit your feedback before 10 May. 
  • EDPS over DSA. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has released its opinions on the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts. The authority recommends additional measures be incorporated to better protect individuals when it comes to content moderation, targeted advertising and recommendation systems.

In Member States

  • Poland. Independent media outlets suspended news reporting last week to protest a new advertising tax that broadcasters and publishers say threatens freedom of the press. Also in Poland, Richard Wingfield of Global Partners Digital has written on the implications of the government’s new media regulation.
  • Hungary. Klubrádió, Hungary’s leading independent radio station and the last independent radio station covering public affairs, lost its broadcasting licence after losing an appeal last Tuesday.
  • France. France’s cybersecurty agency announced yesterday that several entities had been breached through a supply chain attack, and have linked the intrusion to a Russian hacker group.

The Latest from EU DisinfoLab

Tierra Pura: Product of the Pandemic: A new Spanish-language disinformation outlet with connections to The Epoch Times ecosystem.

A recent investigation by EU DisinfoLab exposes how the website “tierrapura.org” is in fact a partisan and disinformation outlet with links to the Falun Gong, a religious group persecuted by the Chinese Government, spreading content in Spanish and Portuguese languages across both Europe and Latin America. The pieces of disinformation include claims that COVID-19 was fabricated by China, that official figures on COVID-19 from health authorities were fake, and that “Antifa” were responsible for the Capitol riots. We also highlights the alignment between Tierra Pura and the Epoch Times ecosystem, a media group repeatedly flagged for spreading disinformation. This research also represents an escalation of the global information wars: Tierra Pura is a battleground for the information war taking place between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chinese opposition groups.
Read the full investigation, Spanish language coverage by EFE, or coverage by the Neiman Lab.  

Vernisse Tantuco of the Philippines-based Rappler offers a guest report on mis- and disinformation in Facebook’s chat apps.

Activity on Facebook’s messaging apps Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp increased when the COVID-19 pandemic began, especially in the countries hit hardest by the virus. Yet even with their 3rd party fact checking program, Facebook’s efforts neglect viral misinformation transferred through these messenging apps. Facebook Messenger has slowly been rolling out features to curb the spread of misinformation but, these features are only available 8 countries, excluding the Philippines.Read the guest report

Research, Studies, Long Reads…

  • A new report from the Center for Democracy and Technology explores the gaps in our understanding of disinformation in relation to race, gender, and intersectionality.
  • The Global Disinformation Index has assembled a slide deck resource on how brands are inadvertently funding COVID-19 disinformation on a selection of ”high risk” websites targeting the EU.
  • Ben Wagner, Johanne Kübler, Lubos Kuklis and Carolina Ferro have published a report outlining accountability mechanisms for big tech through ‘independent auditing intermediaries’ – originally drafted before the release of the Digital Services Act (DSA) proposal.
  • Yesterday in a report for BBC One Panorama, Marianna Spring presented her research into the impact of a ‘social media blitz’ by anti-vaccine activists: “Vaccines: The Disinformation War”.

Events and Announcements

  • The Washington Post has launched #DIYFactCheck, a series of tools to verify videos and debunk misinformation, available on Instagram.
  • 17 February – Applications for DFR Lab’s 360/Digital Sherlocks online training program close tomorrow. Apply here!
  • 25 February – Reuters Institute is hosting a series of ‘digital deep dive’ sessions, connecting specialist journalists from across the world with academics from the University of Oxford. The First will be held on February 25th.
  • 24 – 26 March – CfP will hold “The First Annual Conference of a Platform Governance Research Network”. (Deadline for submissions is February 22nd). More info here.