Disinfo News and Updates

  • Cyber war crimes. Late March, a group of human rights lawyers and investigators called on the International Criminal Court in the Hague to bring the first-ever “cyber war crimes” charges against Russia’s GRU hackers known as Sandworm for their cyberattacks in Ukraine. 
  • China’s pro-Kremlin propaganda. Online activists have exposed a number of Chinese government-linked media outlets and pro-Russia social media accounts that are spreading pro-Russia information on the Chinese internet by mistranslating or manipulating international news about the war in Ukraine.
  • Meta request to Oversight Board. Last week, Meta announced that it had withdrawn an earlier request to have its Oversight Board provide policy guidance regarding content moderation issues related to content about the war in Ukraine. Meta said the decision was due to “ongoing safety and security concerns” which remain unspecified. On Twitter, the Oversight Board said that they “are disappointed by the company’s decision to withdraw it” and mentioned that this withdrawal “does not diminish Meta’s responsibility to carefully consider the ongoing content moderation issues which have arisen from this war.”

EU Policy Monitor 

  • Digital Services Act. The Internal Market (IMCO) Committee will meet on 18 May where members will discuss with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen the global impact of the DSA ahead of the IMCO visit to Silicon Valley (23-27 May) where the Commission is planning to set its representation. The final text of the DSA is still in the making, it might take several more weeks to see what was actually agreed in the last political trilogue in April. 
  • Digital Markets Act. On 11 May, the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER I) approved the final agreement on the DMA. The plenary vote is set for 4 July, possibly together with the vote on the DSA.
  • Artificial Intelligence Act. On 11 May, the LIBE (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) and IMCO Committees met to discuss their joint draft report on the AI Act. The deadline to propose amendments was postponed from 18 May to 1 June. Political groups are split on a number of issues, and there is some doubt that the agreement could be reached by November as initially planned in the Parliament. Telecom Council is set to meet 4 of June when the French Presidency will present the progress on the file. 
  • INGE 2 constitutive meeting. The second special committee on Foreign Interference in the EU Democratic Processes held its constitutive meeting last week, re-electing MEP Raphaël Glucksmann as its Chair. Also elected were four vice-chairs: Javier Zarzalejos (EPP), Morten Løkkegaard (Renew), Dace Melbārd (ECR) and Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz (S&D). Congratulations to all of them! INGE 2 is set to build on the work of the INGE committee looking at the implementation of MEP Sandra Kalniete’s report and exploring any legislative loopholes that foreign actors could exploit. 17 May will be its first meeting, which will focus on Russian disinformation and propaganda. 

Insights & Good Reads

  • Fact-checking tropes. DFRLab identified Kremlin-backed media outlets and Russian social media accounts that embrace open-source research and fact-checking tropes to spread disinformation about the war in Ukraine. This tactic threatens “the trustworthiness of fact-checking as an institution.”
  • French elections & rise of “fachosphere”. This Kinzen article provides insights as to the role of “digital armies”, their tactics to avoid detection by platform moderators, and an impressive online coordination that saw a rise to an online “fachosphere” in the context of the French elections.
  • Tracing disinformation. A paper about “MeVer NetworkX: Network Analysis and Visualization for Tracing Disinformation” introduces the MeVer NetworkX analysis and network tool, which helps users delve into social media conversations and understand how information spreads, and provides intuition about communities formed via interactions.
  • YouTube Super Chats tool. This ISD study explores how YouTube’s under-researched Super Chats tool is allowing both creators and YouTube itself to profit from live chats promoting violence, conspiracies, misinformation and hate.

EU DisinfoLab Monthly Trends

Across the three countries we monitor, in April, hoaxes about the war in Ukraine continue to prevail – even though in France the majority of debunks were related to the French elections.

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

  • In France, during the French Presidential Elections, election fraud narratives have had little success in terms of volume or virality. Many low-viral and seemingly innocuous narratives eroded trust in the election, leading to the establishment of a myriad of “citizens’ election monitoring committees” to oversee voting integrity. These committees often position themselves in continuity with the Yellow Vests Covid-19 denialists.
  • In the German disinformation landscape, two different strategies emerged to deny that the massacres in Bucha and Kramatorsk were committed by Russian troops. While strategy one relies on the fact that Bucha crimes were staged, the second one states that Ukraine was responsible for the Kramastorsk attack. For instance, a hoax claimed that videos with the BBC logo proved that the attack had originated in Ukraine.
  • In Spain, one of the most viral narratives is around “Russian troops detained the leaders of the Azov Battalion in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.” It is a decontextualised video which aims at showing military superiority.  

The Latest from EU DisinfoLab

  • Crypto-funding to disinform. This study by Ana Romero digs into a new under-researched trend of a dozen global disinformation websites requesting donations in cryptocurrencies. Our findings suggest that crypto-funding is becoming an alternative way for malicious actors to get funds and keep producing false content.  

Events and Announcements

  • May 17: MEPs on the Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) will meet with experts to discuss foreign interference by Gulf countries, 17.45 – 18.45 CEST. More here.
  • May 19: Join the Web Foundation for an online discussion on Web3 technologies “Is Web3 the Future of the Web?” 
  • May 24: Register to this NATO StratCom CoE on “Supercharge your credibility and readability with tools and tips for fact-checking and authenticity”
  • June 9: EDMO BELUX Network Event: “An analysis of recommendation algorithms on YouTube against disinformation in Belgium” by CrossOver project. Register here to the English session (from 2-3PM) and here for the French session (from 3:15 to 4:15PM)
  • June 15: Join the “Key takeaways from the 2022 Digital News Report for Flanders” event during which researchers from imec-SMIT (VUB) will present the (Flemish) results of the annual Digital News Report. You can register for the webinar here, or register for the live event at BeCentral here.
  • June 30: Second funding call open for Boosting Fact-Checking Activities in Europe by the European Media and Information Fund with the following priority areas: Investigations on Disinformation, Research and Media Literacy. 


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