Join us on Wednesday 27th May at 15:00 CEST for a webinar where ERGA Board Member Lubos Kuklis will present the key takeaways from ERGA’s Assessment of the Implementation of the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation.
Zuckerberg and Breton (virtually) sit down together
Yesterday, CERRE held an online debate with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Internal Market EU Commissioner Thierry Breton where they discussed the role and responsibilities of online platforms during the COVID-19 crisis management. Politico has a write up for us.
European trends in COVID-19 disinformation
In a new research briefing, we looked at the strategies, online platforms, and narratives used to disinform in France, Italy, and Spain. Here are the key takeaways from the briefing:
- Disinformation items and narratives are increasingly adapted to the local context. In this way, COVID-19 disinformation has followed a trend of firstly focusing on the health crisis itself to concentrating on how the pandemic interacts with pre-existing political and societal issues in the respective countries.
- The alternative information ecosystem (conspiracy theory websites & social media accounts, alternative media, alternative doctors, etc.) is a key conduit for spreading disinformation.
- Disinformation about false cures and health advice has decreased but is still prevalent.
- The uncertainty on the lockdown and the consequences of the restrictions benefit many disinformation actors.
Hungary cracks down
In late March, the Hungarian parliament passed a new set of coronavirus measures that included jail terms for those found to be spreading misinformation or distorting facts in a way that could thwart the government’s response to the pandemic. This move was met with raised eyebrows over concerns that the law threatened freedom of speech and could lead to a chilling effect among journalists and political opposition. Last week, it was reported that a member of an opposition party had been detained on account of him “scaremongering” after sharing Facebook posts critical of the Fidesz government. He was eventually released, but this demonstrates how the law can be used to impede the public’s ability to hold a government accountable. Digital rights organisations have repeatedly pointed out that extraordinary measures should remain proportional, necessary, and legitimate. On Sunday, a Hungarian government spokesperson announced that the government’s rule by decree could end in June.
Tackling hate speech online
France adopted a law against online hate speech last Wednesday, which will force the tech giants to remove flagged hateful content within 24 hours and flagged terrorist propaganda within one hour. Echoing Germany’s NetzDG law, the legislation will come into effect from July 1. Politico brought to light how the European Commission had previously asked for the law to be postponed in light of the forthcoming Digital Services Act, which will clarify European rules for online platforms. Last year, digital rights organisations submitted comments to the Commission, arguing that the French legislation fails to comply with international freedom of speech standards.
- With the help of Nick Waters from Bellingcat, a new Daily Beast report debunks the military contractor’s report cited by US administration officials as evidence of an accident at a Chinese laboratory linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Meet the disinformation avengers – NBC News has done a fantastic profile piece on Joan Donovan, Claire Wardle, and Kate Starbird where each reflects on the types of COVID-19 mis/disinformation circulating and on what the internet may look like once the infodemic passes.
- How search engines disseminate information about COVID-19 and why they should do better – This study finds that search results starkly differ across engines and are characterised by randomisation, which “can be detrimental when society urgently needs to access consistent and accurate information”.
- YouTube as a source of information on COVID-19: a pandemic of misinformation? A new study has found that over one-quarter of the most viewed YouTube COVID-19 themed videos contained misleading information. BBC News has summarised it for us.
Events and Announcements
- In a new podcast, Alex Stamos, Director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, sat down with The Verge’s Casey Newton to discuss how TikTok could be a player in election disinformation.
- 19 May, 13:00 CEST @ Atlantic Council DFRLab webinar – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia: COVID-19 disinformation in the Caucasus.
- 20 May, 14:00 CEST @ Atlantic Council DFRLab webinar – Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine: COVID-19 disinformation in Eurasia.
- 20 May @ Alliance for Democracies webinar – What you see is what you trust? – How educational initiatives can boost media literacy and fight disinformation.
- 20 May, 17:00 CEST @ European Foundation for Democracy online discussion –Transatlantic perspectives on Covid-19 disinformation campaigns.
- 20 May, 17:00 CEST @ Atlantic Council DFR Lab online discussion – European Democracy in a time of COVID-19: A Conversation with Věra Jourová.
- 21 May, 17:00 CEST @ First Draft webinar – Reporting on coronavirus: Using Facebook Ads Archive.