With just weeks left of negotiations, this is a crucial moment to influence the direction of the Digital Services Act! We are calling on decision-makers to put forward a regulatory framework that matches their public declarations when it comes to tackling disinformation. 

Join our upcoming  webinar on DSA and user redress this Thursday, and read the op-ed from Diana Wallis, President of the Board of EU DisinfoLab, in Euractiv!

Webinar: The final push in the Digital Services Act: where is the place for user redress?

Join our webinar co-hosted by HateAid on Thursday, March 24 at 12PM CEST where, together with Frances Haugen, former product manager at Facebook and Whistleblower, and Emma Winberg, the widow of James Le Mesurier, who was a co-founder of the Syrian rescue group the White Helmets, and director of the non-profit MaydayRescue Foundation, we will be reflecting on the importance of a strong redress mechanism in the DSA.

Op-Ed: EU lawmakers call on platforms to do more in response to disinformation in Ukraine. However, current legislative discussions would have them do less. 

Diana Wallis, President of the Board of Directors of EU DisinfoLab, highlights in Euractiv how, even as EU lawmakers demand that platforms take strong new measures in response to disinformation in the war in Ukraine, the Digital Services Act proposal on the table would actually disincentivize platforms from taking necessary actions. The key element at stake is the access to the user redress mechanism foreseen by Article 17.

Disinfo News and Updates

  • Online Safety Bill. On March 17, the Online Safety Bill was presented to the UK Parliament. The bill addresses online harms and centres on the accountability of the largest platforms to protect their users. The British regulator Ofcom would get new authority over web and social media firms, including the power to fine companies for non-compliance up to 10% of their annual turnover, force them to improve their practices, and even to block non-compliant sites. 
  • Climate misinformation. Both the recently published IPCC Report and the European Parliament resolution of 9 March 2022 on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation (2020/2268(INI)), address the topic of climate misinformation. For the first time, the IPCC report states that “vested economic and political interests have organised and financed misinformation and ‘contrarian’ climate change communication” and that the resulting “rhetoric and misinformation on climate change and the deliberate undermining of science have contributed to misperceptions of the scientific consensus, uncertainty, disregarded risk and urgency, and dissent.” In the meantime, the European Parliament recognises the need for a definition for climate mis- and disinformation.  
  • Facial recognition. US startup Clearview offered a free use of the company’s AI facial recognition technology to “uncover Russian assailants, combat misinformation and identify the dead” and potentially vet people at checkpoints, to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence. Some warnings have been issued against misidentification of “people at checkpoints and in battle.”

EU Policy Monitor 

  • Digital Services Act. The third political Trilogue took place March 15. The items discussed included risk assessment and mitigation efforts, online marketplaces, in depth discussions on dark patterns, search engines and definitions of VLOPs while also embarking on exploratory debates on recommender systems and online ads among others. And while there seems to be slow progress in terms of actually agreeing on compromises, a new proposal for the timeline emerged suggesting that there is an ambition to close the file by the end of April. An additional political Trilogue is foreseen for the end of March and another one for the beginning of April. Importantly, the proposed compromises on Article 17, internal complaint handling mechanism, threatens to weaken this article by narrowing the scope of what users can complain about and likely pushing disinformation out of scope. We call on decision-makers to walk the talk and ensure that the DSA is asking platforms to do more, not less on disinformation. Read the op-ed highlighting these concerns by our president Diana Wallis here and join the event with Frances Haugen and Emma Winberg on article 17 in the DSA this Thursday. 
  • European Media Freedom Act. The public consultation closes on March 21. It is expected that the Commission will put forward the proposal in the third quarter of 2022. 
  • INGE report and a new mandate. At the last plenary, the Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation (INGE) report calling to create a common strategy to tackle disinformation. The report, led by MEP Sandra Kalniete, recommends a number of measures and is a wrap up of the one and a half year long mandate ending March 23. The second edition of the special Committee was also set up alongside new Committees on Pegasus spyware and COVID-19. The mandate of the new Committee will be to screen existing and planned EU legislation in terms of loopholes that could be exploited by third countries. 
  • Code of Practice. Last week, the INGE meeting had a presentation from the EC and Code signatories on the ongoing revision process. While it was envisioned that the Code would be finalised by the end of March, the war in Ukraine has slowed down the process. It is now expected that the Code will be finalised before the summer break. 

Insights & Good Reads

  • Covering the war through open-source intelligence. Bellingcat executive director and journalist, Christo Grozev, in a RISJ seminar, explains how he and his colleagues investigate the war in Ukraine. 
  • TikTok in Russia. This Tracking Exposed report finds that TikTok is blocking all foreign content, meaning that Russian users can only access content uploaded by Russian-based accounts “using a loophole to post new content promoting Russian pro-war propaganda in Russia, despite the current ban on new content uploads.”
  • “Querdenken Everything”. This Long Lead story by Darren Loucaides digs into why, months prior to the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection and a year before protesters seized Canada’s capital, Covid-19 sceptics stormed the Reichstag. 

The Latest from EU DisinfoLab

  • Disinformation narratives. Building on the crucial work of the community fighting disinformation at the forefront, and complementing our regularly updated Ukraine conflict resource hub, Maria Giovanna Sessa, Senior Researcher at EU DisinfoLab, maps the typology of disinformation narratives that have developed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Events and Announcements

  • Bringing clarity. The EDMO taskforce, in this statement, urges European and national political and media stakeholders to inform the public about Russian propaganda disguised as fact-checking, and to take action to contain its spread.
  • March 24: Join Frances Haugen & Emma Winberg for a webinar on the DSA & user redress mechanism. Click here to register.
  • April 21: Register here to Politico AI & Tech Summit to be held in Brussels and online, with Alexandre Alaphilippe, EU DisinfoLab Executive Director, as a speaker.