Zuckerberg’s Trip to Europe
Amidst the growing momentum for social media regulation, speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that online content should be regulated in a framework somewhere in between the existing rules for the telecom and media industries. In addition, he also met with EPP President Manfred Weber on Saturday who had written to Zuckerberg a day before, arguing that it’s “high time” for Zuckerberg to give more transparency on “how Facebook’s algorithm is designed, how free expression is respected on his platforms, and how extreme engagement is triggered”. Zuckerberg was due to meet with several European Commissioners today to discuss regulation and his op-ed for the Financial Times may well provide insight into these conversations. As he writes, “good regulation may hurt Facebook’s business in the near term but it will be better for everyone, including us, over the long term”.
State-backed info ops: fake accounts and fake media pages
Last week, Facebook announced that it had removed coordinated inauthentic behaviour from Russia, Iran, Vietnam, and Myanmar. The source of two operations were Southeast Asian state-owned telecom companies, which used fake media pages for commercial purposes to discredit their rivals. Another operation was run by Russia and targeted Ukraine and other eastern European countries with disinformation. Graphika examined these campaigns in more detail and found that the GRU operation used more than 100 accounts on Facebook and Instagram to create fake personas, sometimes posing as journalists in the targeted countries, and spread disinformation on politically divisive issues.
In the news
- Open Democracy has uncovered a global network of ‘crisis pregnancy centres’, backed by US anti-abortion groups, which has been targeting pregnant women with misinformation. In efforts to discourage abortion, women were told that abortion leads to cancer and that hospitals do not treat complications of abortion.
- Last week, Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg teamed up with social media influencers to create memes in support of his presidential bid, triggering a policy change from Facebook. Previously, Facebook had banned such content from politicians by default, but now this content will need to be clearly marked as “sponsored”. What’s more, this content will not be included in Facebook’s Ad Library. Read up about it here.
- In the context of the new powers assigned to Ofcom, Peter Pomerantsev shares his thoughts on why the UK’s Online Harms regulation will create a chilling effect on free speech, before providing solutions to disinformation in the form of electoral advertising reforms, common and nuanced definitions of disinformation, and focusing on behaviours rather than content itself.
- How out-of-context photos are a powerful low tech form of misinformation: This psychological piece reflects on the effectiveness of out-of-context photos, arguing that photographs normally serve as proof that an event happened and that seeing a photograph makes it easier to imagine an event happening, which can make it feel truer.
- Bias Misperceived: The Role of Partisanship and Misinformation in YouTube Comment Moderation – This study investigates how channel partisanship and video misinformation affect the likelihood of comment moderation on YouTube. The authors found no evidence to support claims of political bias. Instead, comments are more likely to be moderated if the video channel is ideologically extreme, if the video content is false, and if the comments were posted after a fact-check.
- According to Lisa K. Fazio for the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, pausing to consider why a headline is true or false can help reduce the sharing of false news. Fazio later notes the positive implications for social media companies in that they may be able to improve the quality of information on their platforms by prompting users to pause and think before sharing information.
Events and Announcements
- In cooperation with Social Science One, Facebook has released a substantial data-set, allowing researchers to better study the effects of social media on democracy and elections.
- 18 February @ Brussels, Belgium – IMCO Workshop: E-commerce rules, fit for the digital age.
- 19 February @ George Washington University, Washington, DC – Assessing U.S. and Partner Posture to Counter Propaganda and Disinformation.
- 10 March @ Paris, France – Deeptech for new media: when deeptech propel the cultural and creative industries.
- 20 March @ Brussels, Belgium – Media and democracy – the way forward.