#Disinfo2022 coming up!

Save The Date for EU DisinfoLab’s 2022 Annual Conference to be held on October 25-26 in Brussels! Follow us on Twitter for pre-registrations and program updates.

Disinfo News and Updates

  • Content moderation. Groundbreaking moment for Renate Künast, a German Green politician and MEP, who won a legal case against Meta) over defamatory quotes. Users had published on Facebook a picture of Künast attributing her to a false quote about integration, and several similar comments. The politician had requested that Facebook would take down all those harmful posts. In its judgement, the court asked Facebook to delete all variants of this post, with similar content.  
  • Europe’s army of Elves. Launched in 2014 in Lithuania, the army of Elves are self-organised and non-funded groups of volunteers that are now active in twelve countries from the Baltics to Central Europe and fighting the Kremlin propaganda machine on social media. The war in Ukraine has them doubling their efforts under one objective, “what matters is the truth.”
  • Pinterest bans climate misinformation. Pinterest is the first social media platform to ban false and misleading claims about climate change to “cultivate a space that’s trusted and truthful.” The new policy, which was devised with help from the Climate Disinformation Coalition and the Conscious Advertising Network, follows an increase in “searches for a greener life” and the creation of public health misinformation guidelines back in 2017.  

EU Policy Monitor 

  • Digital Services Act. The negotiations seem to be nearing their end, with the next technical Trilogue meeting planned on April 19 to prepare for what is widely expected to be the last political Trilogue on April 22. It is an ambitious timeline given that a number of important items have not been agreed on yet, including the ban on targeted ads, dark patterns, access to data, obligations for very large online search engines, and more. The discussions are also expected around the 11th hour proposal from the European Commission on the Crisis Response Mechanism for very large online platforms. It would give the executive power to the Commission – upon the green light from the DSA Board – to mandate platforms to do additional crisis assessments and take risk mitigation measures in case of a sudden crisis, one of the key proposals seen coming as a result of the war in Ukraine. While technical discussions are still happening, and civil society is questioning the democratic process behind such a proposal so late in the Trilogues, it seems that there is overall broad support for the initiative. Together with other civil society partners, we will closely be watching the process in the next week to ensure that there are no last minute changes put on the table that would create loopholes for disinformation on platforms. 
  • Digital Markets Act. Everyone who has been closely following this topic is eagerly waiting to see the consolidated version of the DMA to come out in the next few days, most likely on April 19. One of the key questions for industry seems to be the one on interoperability for messaging services: industry has been raising concerns about how it will affect user’s privacy, while the legislators claim that essential safeguards have been put in place. The officials are also expecting companies to legally challenge the new DMA obligations. 

Insights & Good Reads

  • War crimes. While OSINT analysts are collecting evidence and mapping every aspect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia is using OSINT tactics to discredit the crimes committed in Bucha. Justin Ling, describing the Kremlin’s tactics, states that “the point isn’t to convince the world that these war crimes didn’t happen: The objective is to sow just enough doubt to stymie action.”
  • Algorithms, misinformation, and social media. This Nieman Lab piece looks into how achieving a more transparent online media may be the defining political battle of the 21st century. 
  • Power of the crowd. Eliot Higgins shares his thoughts on how to win the fight against disinformation. According to him, we can’t make it happen without the power of the crowd.

EU DisinfoLab Monthly Trends

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

  • After the initial unanimity, Ukrainian refugees’ acceptance is becoming a polarizing topic in Germany. Some hoaxes support the idea that helping refugees is useless because some donated relief goods are burnt or nobody wants donations. Other narratives claim that refugees from Africa or the Middle East are taking advantage of the Ukrainian war to enter Germany, while decontextualized videos try to portray refugees as uncivilized and dirty people. On the other hand, there are misleading videos trying to raise the acceptance of refugees. 
  • Prior to the first round of the French presidential elections, some disinformation elements sought to undermine public confidence in the outcome of the election, with the misleading announcement that the Dominion software “which was responsible for the manipulation of the vote in the USA” would be used to count the ballots. 
  • In Spain, the war in Ukraine was instrumentalised to unleash hoaxes related to other events such as the coronavirus, the energy crisis, an alleged lack of food, or the great strike of transport workers.

The Latest from EU DisinfoLab

  • French elections. Our latest blogpost tracks all the state actors, civil society and platform initiatives that aimed at securing the presidential French elections from disinformation. 

Events and Announcements

  • April 21: Politico AI & Tech Summit 2022 in Brussels, with Alexandre Alaphilippe, Executive Director of EU DisinfoLab speaking on the panel “Straightening the facts – A check-in on the  DSA”.
  • April 23: Join Café Apache, a discussion about youth and disinformation co-organised by Apache, CrossOver and Stamp Media during What the Media?! In Antwerp. More information here.  
  • April 25: The EPP Disinformation Summit, hosted by MEP Eva Maydell, where Alexandre Alaphilippe will be joining the first panel on the “Creation of an EU Disinformation War Room”.
  • May 3: Save the date for the next online EDMO BELUX network event from 2-3PM on the spread of disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg.
  • May 17-18: Cybersec Forum/Expo 2022 in Katowice, under the theme “United in cyberpower”. 
  • The European Fact-checking Standards Network (EFCSN) project has launched an Open Consultation to gather insights and opinions that will inspire the creation of the Code of Professional Integrity for European fact-checking and OSINT operations. Find out more here
  • NATO is offering grants available to tackle a key area: enabling NATO countries to be more resilient to disinformation and hostile information activities.