Disinfo News and Updates

  • Disinfo Down Under. Yesterday Australia’s Digital Industry Group (DIGI), a body representing several large technology companies, released a voluntary Code of Practice on Misinformation and Disinformation. Long in the making, with strong resemblance to the EU’s Code of Practice, the self-regulatory initiative has also received harsh criticism. It arrives at a tumultuous moment for Australia’s social media space. After Facebook’s rather messy move to block access to news content in response to the government’s News Media Bargaining Code, Facebook and the Australian government came to a deal early this morning.
  • Self-Regulating. The Digital Trust & Safety Partnership is a new initiative that launched last week. Composed of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Discord, Pinterest, Reddit, Shopify and Vimeo, the partnership aims to “establish an industry framework for handling harmful content and conduct online”.
  • An Over-Reach?. Findings which recently emerged from a class action lawsuit expose how Facebook inflated data on “potential reach”, an estimate that the company provides to advertisers.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU Institutions

  • INGE Update. The Parliament’s special committee on disinformation met yesterday for an exchange of views with Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton.  The committee meets again today at 16h45 in a discussion focused on transparency in political party financing.
  • Disinfo in the DSA. Paolo Cesarini, former head of the Media Convergence and Social Media Unit in the DG Connect, has published an opinion piece in his personal capacity on the potential shortcomings of the Digital Services Act in addressing disinformation, for example, an overly narrow definition of “systemic risks”. He proposes several measures, including the possibility for vetted researchers and fact-checkers to trigger internal investigations into disinformation campaigns.

In Member States

  • Spain. The European Commission has approved the Spanish government’s ministerial order on disinformation, dubbed by some the “Ministry of Truth”. Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourová responded to written questions from the Ciudadanos delegation stating that the plan “does not constitute a legal basis for deciding on the content of the information provided by the media”.
  • Estonia. An Estonian intelligence report published last week identifies Russia as the ‘primary threat’ to the EU in cyberspace. The report also indicates that Russia will likely increase their use of deepfake technologies like synthetic media.
  • Denmark. Denmark, who has had a “tech ambassador” since 2017, released yesterday their new technology diplomacy strategy. The report includes outcomes and KPIs in the identified impact area of cyber and disinformation.

Disinfo Community  Dashboard, by IRI

The International Republican Institute (IRI) Beacon Project has published their Community Mapping Dashboard. The dashboard, which presents data collected through a survey conducted last year, identifies “organisations and initiatives engaged in identifying, monitoring, analyzing, and debunking dis/misinformation and foreign malign influence across Europe and Eurasia”.  This mapping project is intended for donors, researchers, and organisations seeking partnerships. IRI’s dashboard is dynamic: it will continually be refreshed as more organisations join and as identified initiatives develop. The survey is still open, so for those who would like to add themselves to the project, it’s not too late!

Research, Studies, Long Reads…

  • A nine-month investigation by the Associated Press and the Atlantic Council’s DFR Lab reveals how the conspiracy theory that the U.S. created the  Covid-19 virus was weaponized by the Chinese government.
  • Recent reporting from NewsGuard, covered by Protocol, shows that a disinformation outlet apparently operated out of Macedonia was among the many misinformation sites trending on the platform before the Capitol Hill Riots; this despite the fact that months before the riot, researchers had already exposed how one in seven Parler users followed an account linked to a Macedonian clickbait site.
  • The Institute for Strategic Dialogue has released research into COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in Ireland.
  • Reddit has released their 2020 transparency report, which indicates that the platform’s biggest ongoing problem is spam, which includes content manipulations like “brigading and “astroturfing”. Read the full report or Tech Crunch’s synthesis.
  • “Disinformation at Scale Threatens Freedom of Expression Worldwide”: Joan Donovan, Emily Dreyfuss, Gabrielle Lim, and Brian Friedberg of the Harvard Shorenstein Center share their submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion.

Events and Announcements

  • 25 February – VUB Brussels School of Governance is continuing their DSA in Perspective seminar series. The next discussion (Thursday 25/02 at 15h CET) will look at the DSA as a response to growing public frustration over the inegalitarian effects of digital markets. More info.
  • Open Call for Proposals for the Future of Science Communication Conference, to be held on 24-25 June 2021 in Berlin. The event is organised by Wissenschaft im Dialog, the organisation for science communication in Germany, and ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities. More here.
  • First Draft is holding a running Flexible Learning Course of free 30-minute lectures and workshops (across three continents and nine languages). More info.
  • 1 March – The National Library of Medicine (NNLM) is hosting a webinar on vaccine hesitancy and the role of social media. More info here.