Good morning, Disinfo Update readers, and welcome to our newest ones!

One thing is certain, as I start to better comprehend the counter-disinformation world I’ve joined a few months ago: it doesn’t leave me with much quiet time! There are always some European or international news to report upon, interesting blog posts, statements and research to read, and share, and events to fill-in the quarterly agenda! Hopefully the below selection will satisfy your needs, and you’ll enjoy the read!  

Don’t forget that this platform is yours, and to send us news and events to be shared with the counter-disinformation community!

Disinfo news and updates

  • Youth, be warned! This NewsGuard investigation shows that, while searching on TikTok’s search engine any prominent news topics, almost 20% of the videos presented as results contained misinformation. Interestingly, a recent research from Google finds that “TikTok is increasingly being used by young people as a search engine, as they turn to the video-sharing platform, instead of Google, to find information.”
  • Few answers for disinformation via texts. While a lot is done to fight the spread of electoral disinformation on social media platforms, the same can’t be said about disinformation through text messages. It has become an important tool during political campaigns, but little answers are found to manage the disinformation that has also crept in.
  • Unusual survey. A few weeks ago, Telegram asked its German users for their opinion on whether the chat app should, or may not, respect national laws and provide the data required by the authorities. This vote may put Telegram in an awkward situation considering that the platform had declared at the beginning of the year that it was willing to help the Federal Government with the prosecution of crimes on the platform

EU policy monitor 

  • European Media Freedom Act. On Friday 16 September, the European Commission presented its proposal for a regulation to strengthen media pluralism and independence in Europe. It deals with interference in editorial decisions, independence and funding of public service media, transparency of media ownership and fair allocation of state advertising as well as media concentration, among other issues. What worries us is Article 17 in the proposed regulation which asks Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) to communicate in advance to a self-declared media that its content is about to be removed. The practical implementation of this will be difficult and will likely lead to social media platforms not moderating media content at all. It also brings back discussions on media exemption that was already rejected by the European Parliament and Member States in the DSA. See our statement here
  • Digital Services Act. The Corrigendum on the Digital Services Act following the final lawyer-linguist check (including new numbering) is available here. The initial numbering of articles have changed, so be sure to check! The final text will likely be adopted by ministers at the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) on 4 October. The DSA Observatory, The Digital Services Act: Adoption, Entry into Force and Application Dates has a good line-up of next steps. The European Parliament has also established an Internal Market (IMCO) working group on the implementation of the DSA that will consist of the rapporteur, shadows and rapporteurs of the associated committees. While it is not a formal structure with a budget and legislative powers, it is meant to keep the European Commission accountable on how it enforces the DSA. The European Commission has also published a consultation website for implementing acts in the DSA. The consultation is expected to come in the fourth quarter of 2022.
  • Regulation on the transparency and targeting of political advertising. According to Politico, new amendments were put forward by IMCO rapporteur Sandro Gozi (the deadline for amendments to IMCO draft report was on 14 September): online platforms and ad companies could have to prove they are not pushing political ads with disinformation or face fines.
  • Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence. The European Parliament has agreed on competencies for this directive. While it primarily focuses on illegal content it might be interesting to look at it through the lens of gender based disinformation too. We are on it! 
  • State of the Union Speech 2022. Last week, the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave her yearly address on the State of the Union. The interesting thing for the counter-disinformation community might be the announced in the Defence of Democracy Package aiming to address the dangers to our democracy brought about by foreign interference. The details are still to come. 
  • Cyber Resilience Act. Last week, the European Commission also published its Cyber Resilience Act that puts forward cyber security requirements for products with digital elements. 

What we’re reading or listening to!

  • Getting ready. This report from the Joint Research Centre entitled “Covid-19 misinformation: Preparing for future crises” provides insights into the behavioural literature around the Covid-19 misinformation, and stresses the implications for future crises.
  • Media Literacy efforts. This New York Times article highlights how teachers are intensifying efforts at fighting misinformation through education, targeting students as they approach voting age. 
  • From the frontlines. Alicia Wanless, director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at Carnegie, talks in this World Unpacked podcast about her work to counter disinformation campaigns in Ukraine and how authoritarian countries are taking the lead in developing the global approach to disinformation due to their anti-democratic vision.

EU DisinfoLab monthly trends

Here are the July and August trends from our in-house researchers about the disinformation landscape in France, Germany and Spain. 

  • During the holidays, French fact-checkers have debunked less items than in June. The heat wave and its different consequences caused a wave of disinformation in France. There were cases of “climate change denialism,” catastrophist hoaxes which are fear-mongering or clickbait, and cases considered as “ecological polarisation.” The former Socialist candidate in Presidential elections, Ségolène Royal, was much disputed after she questioned the reality of Russian war crimes in Ukraine and compared Putin’s and Zelenski’s propaganda. The fact-checkers at Libération debunked her statements. Royal’s statement got covered by the Russian press, presenting her as a whistleblower. 
  • Over the summer, we observed a significant increase of debunks in Germany. The energy crisis emerged as one crucial topic of disinformation, triggering fear-mongering hoaxes or institutional distrust. The farmer protests in the Netherlands appeared in multiple German hoaxes (i.e., false tanks and armoured tractors) and were instrumentalised by Querdenker (alternative thinkers) and the Russian channel RT to fuel similar protests in Germany. New disinformation narratives emerged, included one with a focus on gender which was observed for the first time in Germany, with a false video claiming that the Ukrainian army wants to recruit homosexual men
  • In Spain, pushed by anti-vaccine stances, Covid-19 was the topic that generated the most disinformation. Events such as the heatwave and the wildfires were instrumentalised to generate false content and deny climate change. The actors of disinformation used slogans with catchy puns (“chromatic change”) to drive attention. A relevant part of the Spanish right-wing politics, and not only those of the extreme right, has been sceptical during the summer about climate change. A new narrative spread in the country: Contents discouraging the use of electric cars while defending oil. Most of the hoaxes surrounding the war in Ukraine seek to favour the Russian position by undermining the image of Western countries, Nazi proclamations over Ukrainians are tarnishing the image of Zelensky.

The latest from EU DisinfoLab

  • Our positions.
    • European Media Freedom Act (EMFA): The EU DisinfoLab welcomed on Friday, the EMFA proposal. However, we are very concerned about the introduction of Article 17 which could pave the way for a comeback of media exemption. “We still don’t understand why we spend so much time discussing the same measures that were rejected in the Plenary, and ruled out by the Member States, while there are more meaningful and urgent things that could be done to protect the media and the public from disinformation,” says Alexandre Alaphilippe, EU DisinfoLab Executive Director.
    • Code of Practice on Disinformation: While we welcome the newly introduced Code of Practice on Disinformation, we look forward to clarifications about the relationship between the DSA and the Code. Enforcement will for sure remain key throughout this process! 
  • Italian elections & (short) list of counter-disinformation initiatives. This new blogpost lists the handful of initiatives that have been put forward by stakeholders to protect the 2022 snap elections in Italy from disinformation and foreign interference. This list is short, which highlights that Italy lacks long-term infrastructure to counter disinformation, making the country and the upcoming Italian elections vulnerable to malign actors.
  • ICYMI. The replay from our webinar on 15 September on how to measure the risks and impact of disinformation with Ben Nimmo, Global Lead, Threat Intelligence at Meta, and Raquel Miguel Serrano, Researcher at EU DisinfoLab, is available here.  

Events & announcements

  • 30 September: Join the BENEDMO conference “Disinformation in time of conflict” in Antwerp, from 1-6PM, where a few of our EDMO BELUX partners will share the results from their research. Register here
  • 30 September: Meedan is accepting applications for grants at the Check Global Independent Media Response Fund, which addresses global challenges with hyperlocal communities. The fund aims to support small and medium-sized media initiatives focusing on climate misinformation.
  • 26-28 October: Join experts from Access Now at World Ethical Data Forum, an event embracing the full scope of interrelated ethical and practical challenges around data and information — from AI, analytics, privacy, and cybersecurity, to human rights and press freedoms. 
  • 15 November: Deadline to share, as stakeholders working on tackling online disinformation, your training needs and help EDMO identify the most relevant topics for the different training sessions through this EDMO Training Survey! The 2022 calendar of EDMO trainings is available here.
  • 15 December: The European Council Research launched a Science Journalism Initiative to support an organisation or a consortium of organisations to set up a funding scheme that would facilitate 3-5-month stays of journalists at research institutions.


This good Twitter thread!

Click on the link below to read this thread!