How two information portals hide their ties to the Russian news agency InfoRos
In March this year, we stumbled across articles from a French website called Observateur Continental, which had spread disinformation related to COVID-19, including an article repropagating an interview with the US professor of international law Francis Boyle, who had falsely asserted without evidence that the “COVID-19 is a perfect biological weapon”.
Based on this, we began to look deeper into Observateur Continental and uncovered that two information portals (oneworld.press and observateurcontinental.fr) hide their ties to InfoRos – a news agency previously linked to Russian military intelligence (GRU), according to reports by the Washington Post and Stanford Internet Observatory.
EU Joint Communication on the Infodemic
Last week, the European Commission and EEAS released a Joint Communication on the COVID-19 infodemic (if you’re looking for a concise write-up, TechCrunch has it). Responding to this, we released our position on the Communication; in essence, we push for a more robust, decentralised EU financial framework for supporting civil society in Europe. We’re also deeply concerned about the European Commission’s intention to fight disinformation with more strategic communications.
In the news
- In an effort to curb the virality of mis/disinformation, Twitter is testing a new design feature, which would ask users if they would like to open a link first before sharing it.
- Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has written to Facebook to ask the platform to “proactively stem the tide of false information” by fact-checking viral election-related information. Additionally, he asked that the platform fact-checks political ads that will run in the two-week period preceding the election. In response, Facebook released a very short statement.
- The disinformation campaign to define U.S. protesters as ‘terrorists’ – DRFLab has detailed how a campaign centred on spreading false claims about Antifa “terrorism” gained momentum across the US, influencing both the public and policymakers’ perceptions of the protests.
- In a new piece, First Draft outlines 12 principles designers should follow for labelling manipulated media on social media platforms. These range from making labels noticeable and easy to process to using a consistent labelling scheme across contexts.
- Institute for Strategic Dialogue recently released a report reviewing the three major online platforms’ (Facebook, Twitter, and Google) policies to stem the infodemic and their enforcement during the first 100 days.
- Following Twitter’s removal of almost 24,000 accounts linked to China, Stanford Internet Observatory has analysed the content covered by these accounts, finding that the main topics were the Hong Kong protests; COVID-19; exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, and Taiwan.
Events and announcements
- In collaboration with Mozilla Foundation, Policy has launched Choose Your Own Fake News — a game where characters explore different scenarios that portray how misinformation can have real-life consequences.
- BBC News Africa has launched a searchable library of fact-checks debunking popular myths and misinformation about coronavirus in Africa.
- 17 June, 15:00 CEST @ Transitions with Memo 98 – Tackling the COVID-19 Infodemic: How to Set Up an Effective Monitoring System – a Practical Guide.
- 18 June, 14:00 CEST @ Forum Europe event – GDPR: 2 years on.
- SAVE THE DATE: 27-31 July – RightsCon online.