Good morning, dear readers!

After a restful summer break, your Disinfo Update, providing you with a roundup of disinformation news and studies, is back to its usual biweekly schedule!  

We have some exciting news to share as we’re looking to hire a Policy and Community Coordinator to join our Brussels-based team. Do you know someone that has the skills and eagerness to fill in this position? Don’t hesitate to spread the word around!  

On this note, we wish you a good read! 

Disinfo news and updates

  • Pro-Russian narratives. This New York Times article reports that, as Russia advances into occupied territories, hijacked radio and television channels are broadcasting Russian disinformation and pro-war propaganda.  
  • Abortion surveillance. Facebook gave police in Nebraska in June – before Roe v Wade was officially overturned -, private messages between a mother and her 17-year-old daughter, discussing how to obtain abortion pills. The duo now faces abortion charges as the daughter, the report says, was more than 20 weeks pregnant. In Nebraska, abortions are banned after 20 weeks. This case shows that tech companies “contribute to criminal prosecutions of abortion cases. Experts say it also shows the importance of encryption and minimising the amount of data Facebook stores on its users.”
  • Open letter to social platforms prior to elections in Brazil. This Open letter published and co-signed by a number of civil society organisations is a good reminder and call for action to Meta, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube, all social platforms on which disinformation and threats of violence are spreading ahead of the elections in Brazil. “It’s critical to the health of our democracy, our society, and our environment that you act as soon as you can,” states the Open letter.
  • Update. In our July newsletter, we covered how 80 organisations had signed an Open letter calling on Meta to cease attempts to silence South African whistleblower Daniel Motaung. It looks like it worked as Facebook and Sama have backed down from their legal threat against the former content moderator.

EU policy monitor 

  • Twitter violates user rights under the NetzDG: HateAid files a complaint. On 12 August HateAid filed a complaint to Bundesamt für Justiz (Germany) against Twitter for violating several provisions under the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG). Twitter failed to include information on implementation of the internal complaint mechanism in the recent bi-annual NetzDG transparency report that was published at the end of July, despite it being a requirement. From HateAid’s experience, and their analysis of the latest transparency report, the organisation assumes that no redress mechanism was set up at all. Read the Euractiv article on the complaint. Why does it matter for the counter-disinformation community? Online platforms will face a similar obligation to introduce internal complaint mechanisms also under the DSA Article 17. It will include a possibility to complain when platforms choose not to act on content that is illegal or violates their terms and conditions, including disinformation. How platforms comply with the NetzDG provisions can give valuable insights and learnings for regulators in terms of the implementation of the DSA and Article 17 more specifically. We will be following the outcomes of the complaint very closely. In the meantime, read further analysis from HateAid on the latest NetzDG transparency reports here.  
  • Digital Services Act & Digital Markets Act. While the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung published an overview of the DSA delegated acts, reports and codes of conduct, the European Commission released this study on the DSA and DMA, and their possible impact on research and research stakeholders’ operations. It provides recommendations on how to make the legislative instruments and their implementation better adapted for researchers. 
  • RT France v. Council. On July 27, a European Union court of justice dismissed an appeal by RT France to overturn a ban on content from Russian state-owned media from being distributed and broadcasted in the EU. The court found that the ban on RT France in the EU did not violate the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, under Article 11 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

What we’re reading

  • Social media & misinformation towards migrants. This Tech Transparency Project survey shows that migrants, like most of us, heavily rely on the internet and social media as sources of information but struggle to find accurate ones. While attempting to enter the US, they are the targets of misinformation on social media, including Facebook. 
  • Covid-19 vaccines & pregnancy misinformation. This ProPublica article digs into the massive anti-vaccine campaign we witnessed throughout Covid-19 and its lasting effects in relation to other vaccines and health misinformation generally.  
  • Matter of algorithms! Thanks to data collected from its dashboards, the CrossOver project shows that the media offensive led by the Chinese government to prevent the UN from presenting its long awaited report on human rights violations of Uighurs in Xinjiang by China has reached Belgium too. 
  • ICYMI. While it dates back a bit, this Kinzen piece provides an insightful reaction to the European Code of Practice on Disinformation.

Want to join the EU DisinfoLab team?

Events & announcements

  • August 31: Interested in being part of the RIPE Fellowship and participating in the RIPE Meeting on October 24-28? The deadline for applications is August 31.
  • September 22: The European Commission has launched a foresight study on the future of online platforms. The deadline for the submission of tenders is September 22.  
  • October 4: RIPE 85 is hosting an online event for students about “Understanding the Internet”. More information here
  • For our US readers: The FTC is asking for input on the harms from businesses collecting, analysing, and monetising information about people. The Disinformation Defense League network is opening a call for stories to help the agency “understand the impact and harms of disinformation, misinformation, fraud, scams, and hateful content which have harmed our communities.”


This good Tweet!