Good morning, Disinfo Update readers!
The year starts fast at EU DisinfoLab. Following a productive 2-day strategic meeting, putting some perspectives into the work we’ve collectively achieved in 2022, and reflecting upon our 2023 priorities, we’ve welcomed Heini Järvinen, Projects and Communications Manager, to our team. Heini brings her extensive European expertise at an exciting time for the organisation. Expect to hear from her very soon!
This bi-weekly edition comes in with a new section: “This week’s recommended read”, featuring one of our team member’s latest favourite reads. An opportunity for you to get to know us better, and go beyond our disinformation lens! Let’s kick it off with Alexandre’s!
Have a great read!
Disinfo news & updates
- RT France down. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union banned the Russian state-backed outlets Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik from broadcasting within the EU. Despite this ban, RT’s French edition had continued producing content, which was broadcasted in African francophone countries, and the channel was also still available online. Last week, Le Monde reported that the channel could collapse after the French state froze its funds, which happened over the weekend.
- Inspiring. Finland ranked No. 1 of 41 European countries on resilience against misinformation for the fifth time in a row in a survey by the Open Society Institute. Officials say that this success is the result of a strong education system combined with a collective effort to teach students about disinformation. Media literacy is part of the national core curriculum starting in preschool.
- UK Online Safety Bill. A lot happened last week, after members of parliament and campaigners forced the government to include criminal liability for tech executives to protect users from online harm. A sentence of up to two years is designed to dissuade executives from ignoring notices from the regulator Ofcom. However, it won’t target those who “acted in good faith to comply in a proportionate way” with their duties.
EU policy monitor
- How are we advancing media freedom in Europe? Yesterday was the last day to participate in the Commission’s consultation and provide input on the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA). EU DisinfoLab, together with other civil society organisations, contributed. Here is our joint statement accompanying the consultation, calling to remove Article 17 in the draft regulation. EU DisinfoLab also joined the People vs. Big Tech coalition in their EMFA submission, calling to remove Article 17 too. The Council is currently examining the EMFA proposal. It is waiting for the feedback from its legal services on whether the proposed legislative instrument, meaning the regulation, is appropriate or whether a directive would be more fitting. On 23-24 January, the Swedish Presidency is hosting a Conference on the Impact of EU Platform regulation on democratic discourse and media policy in Stockholm. On the European Parliament side, the committee on Culture and Education (CULT) will be the lead committee in charge of EMFA. The Internal Market (IMCO) committee will get shared competence on the entire draft law, after a deal was struck between chairs of the European Parliament’s committees on Tuesday, according to Politico. Meanwhile, negotiations are still ongoing with the Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee. The proposal was officially presented to the members of the CULT committee yesterday.
- What’s happening with the Code of Practice on Disinformation? It is expected that the first reports of signatories will appear for public scrutiny at the end of January. We will keep an eye out.
- Preparations for the Digital Services Act (DSA) enforcement: fees and audits. The Commission just closed the public consultation on the methodology for calculating the supervisory fee that platforms will need to contribute to for the DSA enforcement. The public consultation for the delegated act on audits is expected to be opened soon.
- The ING2 committee draft report is out. Amendments deadline is set to 31 January. Vote in the committee should happen in April, while the vote in Plenary should take place in May.
- Political advertisement. The regulation is moving forward. The vote in the IMCO committee is scheduled for 24 January. A vote in plenary is expected on 1 February.
What we’re reading
- 2016 US elections. How effective was Russia’s foreign influence campaign in the 2016 US elections? This paper by NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics finds that exposure to Russia’s campaign on Twitter wasn’t linked to changes in attitudes, polarisation, or voter behaviour.
- Mali. This publication by Maxime Audinet and Emmanuel Dreyfus, “A Foreign Policy By Proxies? The Two Sides of Russia’s Presence in Mali“, digs into Russia’s contemporary foreign policy in the country, and explores the disparate ecosystem of Russia’s information influence there.
This week’s recommended read by
Alexandre Alaphilippe, Executive Director of EU DisinfoLab, enjoyed Max Read’s post about posting, which goes beyond the content creation aspect. It is a reflection about the best practices to become a successful content entrepreneur, and the economics of online content. Looking from the information market, demand and supply could maybe self-regulate themselves. But we need to reflect about social incentives that are pushing content creators to always publish more and faster instead of focusing on added value content.
EU DisinfoLab monthly trends
The disinformation landscape in Germany, Spain and France in December 2022 presents some clear similarities. Across those three countries, we’ve found that beyond the war in Ukraine, the energy and the economic crisis, climate change, Covid-19, Qatargate and the FIFA World Cup are events that generated a lot of disinformation narratives. For more national specificities, take a look below:
- Beyond those narratives, in France, conspiracy theorists that opposed contact tracing app ”TousAntiCovid” now raise population surveillance and personal data dissemination concerns over Ecowatt, an app to warn about power cuts. Under the false premise of giving scientists a voice, Netflix documentary “Ancient Apocalypse” disinforms about the unproven existence of a now extinct advanced civilisation.
- In Germany, disinformation about the Reichsbürger’s coup plot circulated, mainly denialist narratives claiming that the police action was staged, or hoaxes downplaying the seriousness of the threat, a discourse that was in part shared by the far-right party AfD. Fake Facebook pages of alleged workers of German companies, supported by Facebook ads, were created in order to spread the false narrative that Germany will dismantle its national industry as a consequence of the war in Ukraine and the consequent energy crisis. The war in Ukraine was the main disinformative topic in 2022, according to a Correctiv report.
- In Spain, the World Cup triggered several kinds of disinformation: from homophobic or anti-migrants to purely clickbait content in order to gain an audience. Conspiracy theories doubled in December compared to previous months. QAnon returns with theories about paedophilia or the adrenochrome. Content about the damages of 5G makes a comeback, and theories about the “true” 2030 agenda are revived. The war in Ukraine continues to be a source of disinformation and content that favours Russia predominates. How to convince people that it is not necessary to fight climate change? In December, we found the technique via an alarming hoax. It claims that there will be a climate lockdown in 2024.
Events & announcements
- 25 January. EDRi’s 11th edition of Privacy Camp 2023 is taking place in Brussels, with a stream of online sessions.
- 7 February. If you’re attending the EEAS Conference, “Beyond disinformation – EU responses to the threat of foreign information manipulation”, don’t miss Alexandre Alaphilippe’s lightning speech about the role of civil society organisations in countering FIMI that afternoon.
- 9 February. Webinar (2-3PM) with Alicia Wanless, Director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who will be presenting the CERN model to study the information environment. Registrations to open soon!
- 28 February. Deadline to apply to the European Media and Information Fund (EMIF) 4th funding round, “Boosting fact-checking activities in Europe”.
- 28 February. Deadline to submit your paper for the 2nd ACM International Workshop on Multimedia AI against Disinformation, which will be taking place on 12-15 June, in Thessaloniki, Greece.
- Partners needed! Global Disinformation Index is looking for in-country partners to collaborate on their Media Market Risk Assessment projects. Projects to-date have covered over 20 countries, and are planned to expand to another 20 over the course of 2023 and 2024. More information here.
- Put yourself on the map! The International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Beacon Project launched its second community mapping survey. Thank you for taking this fairly short survey, and contributing to a better understanding of the counter-disinformation community.
- AlgorithmWatch is looking for a Senior Policy & Advocacy Manager.
- Amnesty International is hiring a Research Consultant to look into the algorithmic harms of social media platforms.
- The Center for Countering Digital Hate has a couple of job openings.
- Demsoc will be recruiting for a new Director-General in February, along with non-executive Administrators. Express your interest here.
- The International Red Cross Committee is looking for a Cyber Security Policy Coordinator and for a Cyber Security Policy Adviser.
This good tweet!
Celebrating the victory of Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and fierce supporter of civil society and democracy, Maria Ressa in her Philippine Supreme Court case.