DSA Media Exemption Update

Discussions are ongoing in Brussels regarding the so-called media exemption in the DSA. Voted compromise amendments on Article 12 (here and here) exempt ‘media’ or ‘press publications’ from any form of moderation or ‘interference’ by platforms, on the basis of the platforms’ terms and conditions. This would prohibit platforms from removing content, but also from adding fact-checking labels or informational panels related to disinformation for all “media content”.

These proposals would open a large loophole given the role of media in spreading disinformation (see our recent publication below). It could jeopardize the ability of the Digital Services Act to improve accountability of our online environment and obstruct the work of disinformation researchers. This is deeply concerning to counter disinformation organisations and researchers. Director of the Reuters Institute Rasmus Kleis Nielsen summarizes the stakes and recalls that more sustainable solutions are available in the DSA. This debate is expected to continue over the next few days.

Disinfo News and Updates

  • Defunding Climate DenialGoogle announced it will no longer allow advertisements or the monetisation of content that contradicts scientific consensus on climate change.
  • Amazon Knock-Offs. Amazon employees studied proprietary data about other brands selling on Amazon.in in order to copy products and rig search results in favor of Amazon products.
  • Facebook’s Blacklist. The Intercept leaked Facebook’s blacklist of over 4,000 “Dangerous Individuals and Organisations” banned from the platform.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU institutions 

  • Facebook Whistleblower. Lead MEPs from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee have invited Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen to testify on November 8. (NB: IMCO is the lead committee for the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts.)
  • Media Literacy. Last Tuesday the European Commission launched an expert group on disinformation and digital literacy to develop common guidelines for educators in the framework of the Digital Education Action Plan.
  • Coming Soon. A European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) and a Cyber Resilience Act will be announced in the new work programme for 2022. Expected to be released today. 

The role of “media” in producing and spreading disinformation campaigns

Quality journalism and honest reporting bring crucial facts to the public. But, in numerous cases, “media” (whether self-described or registered) have played a role in producing and distributing disinformation campaigns. In our latest research, we  highlight the most damaging examples of disinformation campaigns involving “media” as key players of these malicious strategies. This short paper collects a dozen recent examples of actors posing as reputable news sources to gain legitimacy in the public eye and influence the debate. Deceptive tactics range from the creation of entirely false outlets and actors, such as establishing false news websites and fake personas, to the inclusion of some elements of authenticity to then distort them: corrupting real journalists, stealing their identity, or pushing authentic sources to amplify deceptive contents.

Read More

EU DisinfoLab Trends:

We’re testing something new this week. We’re bringing you a summary of the top trends from our September monitoring of fact-checked disinformation in France, Germany, and Spain!

  • German elections. As the federal elections catalysed the German disinformation ecosystem, viral hoaxes claimed that election results were predetermined, that only people who received the COVID-19 vaccine or recovered from the virus would be allowed in polling stations, that the postal vote was manipulated, and that election watchers were bribed to make AfD votes disappear.
  • COVID-19 vaccines. A lot of false content continues to revolve around the pandemic in various European countries. In France, a conspiracy channel on Rumble subtitled a viral video from “America’s Frontline Doctor” Ryan Cole on the alleged dangers of the vaccines.
  • Climate change denialism. Since September 19, an aggressive volcanic eruption on La Palma (Canary Islands) that forced thousands to flee their homes was exploited to disseminate climate change denialist views, including the claim that the eruption was orchestrated to distract people from the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Also from the EU DisinfoLab:

  • “Foreign election interferences: an overview of trends and challenges.” On the heels of the German federal election and in the lead up to the French presidential election, in an era where disinformation has become a common political strategy, this recent publication focuses on verified cases of foreign interference during elections that involved disinformation.
  • EUDL executive director Alexandre Alaphilippe talked to Mark Scottt on Politico’s EU Confidential podcast about the proliferation of actors leveraging disinformation strategies to interfere in the activities of the EU institutions.

Events and Announcements

  • 21 October: The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression are holding an online event on Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice. Register here.
  • 26 – 27 October. Our annual conference #Disinfo2021 is next Tuesday and Wednesday! Due to Covid-19 restrictions we’ve had to limit the size of this event, which will be a physical colloquium (not a hybrid event). 
  • 28 October: Renaissance Numerique is holding a debate on Encryption: what balance between privacy and national security? (In French) RSVP here.
  • The Partnership for Countering Influence Operations (PCIO) is encouraging applications to its Researchers’ Guild. Candidates working outside of the United States and Western Europe are especially encouraged to apply. More info here.