Disinfo News and Updates

  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Recent days have seen the wide sharing of online posts containing misleading or false information related to the escalating violence. Also, why densely populated Gaza is blurry on Google Maps and implications for OSINT.
  • Disinfo for Hire. Facebook has been seeing an increase in influence operations outsourcing campaigns to public relations firms and commercial entities.
  • Colonial Pipeline Hack. The hack against the Colonial Pipeline in the US by the hacker group DarkSide is further evidence of how the lucrative ransomware business poses a serious risk to infrastructure.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU Institutions

  • Digital Services Act. A working paper leaked to EURACTIV shows how the Commission is presenting the link between the DSA and disinformation to EU governments.
  • Christchurch Call. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke at the online summit for the second anniversary of the Christchurch Call on Friday about the EU’s efforts regarding terrorist content online and the Digital Services Act.
  • EU Digital Compass. Following it’s Digital Compass Communication, the Commission has opened a call for feedback on its set of principles that should define “the ‘European way’ for the digital society”. Submit your feedback on the roadmap by June 9. A public consultation will also be open until September 2.

In Member States

  • France. The text of France’s terrorism and intelligence bill, “Projet de loi relatif à la prévention d’actes de terrorisme et au renseignement” is complete, though it raises concerns regarding the processing of personal data
  • Ireland. Following a ruling by the Irish High Court, Ireland’s data protection authority can resume a probe that may trigger a ban on Facebook’s transatlantic data transfers.

EU High Representative Borrell challenged over the lack of sanctions on actors involved in foreign interference and disinformation.

The Special Committee on Foreign Interference Including Disinformation (INGE) tabled a question for an oral answer to EU High Representative Borrell. VP Borrell is expected to respond in person at the European Parliament  (likely in June, exact date tbc) on, inter alia, improvements to “the toolbox for sanctions on foreign actors to raise costs for foreign interference and spreading disinformation” and “the need to move to qualified majority decisions for sanctions”.

EU DisinfoLab Study on YouTube and the Conspiracy Documentary Hold-up covered by Politico  

In November 2020, the release of the French COVID-19 conspiracy movie Hold-up sparked much controversy and was covered extensively by French media. Our recent EU DisinfoLab study shows how some full versions of this documentary remained available on YouTube for months – despite being full of COVID-19 disinformation – accumulating at least 4.5 million views since November 2020. The discrepancy between YouTube’s quick reaction the Plandemic conspiracy movie (USA) and its relative inaction against Hold-up (France) suggests a concerning double standard. Meanwhile, the limited actions taken by YouTube also facilitated the spread of Hold-up on other platforms.

Our study was covered by Politico, which also had a closer look at how Hold-up has been continuously disseminated on Facebook. While YouTube did not respond to our questions, the company did react to Politico’s story: “As the COVID-19 situation has developed, we have continued to update our medical misinformation policies. We removed the video Hold Up because it now violates YouTube’s Medical Misinformation policy,” responded a YouTube spokesperson. YouTube also removed all of the Hold-up videos that we identified in our study as still available on platforms on 10 May 2021.

Research, Reports, Long Reads …

  • Stop Funding Heat has pre-launched their first report, “On The Back Burner: How Facebook’s Inaction on Misinformation is Fuelling the Global Climate Crisis”.
  • The Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute collaborated on a seven-month long investigation linking the rise of the Chinese Communist Party on Twitter to “an army of fake accounts” retweeting Chinese diplomats and state media.
  • Politico’s Mark Scott reflects on the challenges Facebook will soon confront regarding its policies towards world leaders. 

Events and Announcements

  • May 19: All Tech is Human is hosting an interactive online discussion on how to reduce gender-based violence online and create a better overall social media environment. Register here.
  • May 20: CSD, the Center for the Study of Democracy, is hosting a policy roundtable: “Russian Media Influence in Europe: Disinformation, Hybrid Threats and Democracy”. Agenda here, RSVP here.
  • June 10: EU DisinfoLab’s Community Lab at RightsCon “Gender and disinformation: towards a gender-based approach for researchers, activists, and allies”. More info here
  • October 26 & 27: Save the Date for EU DisinfoLab’s Annual Conference! More info coming soon…