Facebook shifts its stance
Last week, Facebook announced that it would begin informing users who have previously liked, reacted or commented on harmful COVID-19 misinformation that has since been removed. Users will be notified via messages on their News Feeds. This policy move came in response to Avaaz’s report titled How Facebook can Flatten the Curve of the Coronavirus Infodemic, which highlighted the shortcomings in Facebook’s implementation of its own policies. Verge’s Casey Newton has summarised these developments for us. In related news, we have also updated our blog-post on platforms’ responses to COVID-19 mis– and disinformation with sections dedicated to enforcement.
Fact-checking during the infodemic
In an effort to manage the infodemic, fact-checkers have understandably been inundated by the volume of mis– and disinformation requiring verification. Only a few weeks ago, Business Insider reported that Snopes — one of the oldest fact-checking organisations — was overwhelmed by the influx of false COVID-19 information. More recently, POLITICO’s Mark Scott interviewed fact-checkers across the world for their experience of the infodemic, finding that debunkers are constrained by “patchy” access to data from the platforms and a lack of dependable additional resources.
Digital Services Act update
In light of the disruption caused by COVID-19, the European Commission is assessing whether to delay the Digital Services Act (DSA) – a new legal framework for online services that will revisit the responsibility of online platforms. Originally foreseen for Q4 2020, it may now be pushed back until Q1 2021. This comes at the moment of the release of the draft IMCO initiative report on the DSA.
- When COVID-19 disinformation meets religion: Bellingcat has taken a peek into the disinformation moving in US conservative Christian circles and noticed a merging of anti-vaxx and pro-life discourses. In this way, one bizarre narrative condemns a future COVID-19 vaccine on grounds of it being made from aborted foetuses.
- Hromadske International has shared a collection of the most popular disinformation narratives circulating in Eastern Europe. Such topics range from the idea that sanitary pads can protect you from the coronavirus to the claim that the coronavirus came from Satan, as well as a conspiracy theory that casts the virus as a US bioweapon.
- Last week, Graphika uncovered a small Iranian disinformation campaign in which Iran had been promoting its agenda through the lens of COVID-19. Researchers found that some narratives accused the US of creating the virus as a bioweapon.
- Commentary from HSK Misinformation Review researchers explores how Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is using misinformation as a political weapon in the context of COVID-19. Bolsonaro leads the “coronavirus denial movement,” which serves the purpose of keeping the economy open and shrugging responsibility for Brazil’s inevitable recession, which was forecasted even before the pandemic.
Events and Announcements
- 21 April, 13:55 CEST @ Friends of Europe & DFRLab webinar – Italy, Spain, France: Foreign influence operations amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
- 14 May, 11:00 ET @ First Draft webinar – Reporting on Coronavirus: Ethical questions around covering COVID-19.
- Graphika’s Camille François sat down with Lawfare for a podcast on COVID-19 disinformation and the ABC framework, which can help to understand the nature of disinformation campaigns.
- Reuters Institute has detailed how people in six countries access and rate news and information about coronavirus.
- First Draft is hiring a freelance copy editor.