Digital Services Act Passes without a Media Exemption
During plenary last Wednesday, MEPs voted on the Digital Services Act. They rejected Amendment 511, which would have created a de facto exemption for ‘media’ from content moderation.
We owe a huge thanks to our community for helping us ensure that all iterations of a media exemption have been rejected throughout the legislative process. Trilogue discussions between the Parliament, the Council, and the Commission begin at the end of this month, but we can be confident knowing that MEPs have voted twice (in IMCO and in plenary) to reject a carveout for media. Now we can return our attention to other areas of this regulation that can be strengthened with regard to information disorders.
Disinfo News and Updates
- Fact-checking the Hungarian elections. Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Hungarian news media 444.hu are launching a fact-checking website to verify information and combat false claims ahead of the Hungarian elections in April. The website, called lakmusz.hu, is the country’s first fact-checking website and the result of an EU project.
- Public pressure on content moderation. An open letter urging Spotify to moderate COVID misinformation, particularly the anti-vaccine rhetoric of Joe Rogan, has gathered over a thousand signatures from science and health experts. Meanwhile, earlier this month, 85 fact-checking groups sent an open letter Wednesday to YouTube urging the platform to reduce its dissemination of dis and misinformation.
- Media regulation in Ireland. The Irish Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill was approved by ministers this month. The bill will transpose the revised EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS) into Irish law. It will also establish a new regulator – a multi-person Media Commission with an Online Safety Commissioner – replacing the existing Broadcasting Authority.
- Disinformation in Ukraine. On January 22nd, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned four individuals tied to Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) interference in Ukraine. Also: the EUvDisinfo debunks seven myths related to the current Russia-Ukraine conflict.
- Bellingcat appeals ‘foreign agent’ designation. After it was labeled as a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian government in October, Bellingcat is appealing the designation in Russian Courts and will take its appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if this fails.
EU Policy Monitor
- Digital Services Act. The Parliament’s draft of the DSA passed the plenary vote last Wednesday, with important last-minute amendments limiting digital advertising targeting minors and the use of highly sensitive personal data. Amendment 511 did not pass: this would have introduced a recital allowing ‘media’ to contest content moderation decisions before they are made. An amendment did pass requiring platforms’ terms and conditions to take into consideration freedom of expression and media freedom, as well as an amendment that would make platforms’ own rules that contradict fundamental rights non-binding. The draft will now enter the trilogue phase with a first meeting January 31st.
- Targeted Ads. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has suggested a series of changes to strengthen the proposed regulation on transparency and targeting of political advertising, ie: banning micro-targeting for political purposes as well as targeting based on pervasive tracking.
- INGE Update. The Parliamentary Special Committee on Foreign interference in all democratic processes in the EU (INGE) meets this morning (Jan 25) to vote on the committee rapporteur’s draft report.
- Toolkit on R&I Foreign Interference. The European Commission released a staff working document on how to tackle foreign interference in research and innovation (R&I). The resource includes guidelines to higher education institutions and research organisations
- Digital IDs. The EU’s cybersecurity agency, ENISA, warns that digital ID documents are vulnerable to attacks and manipulation, for instance spoofing through deep fakes.
The Latest from the EU DisinfoLab
Cyber Peace Champions of 2021
We are very honoured to have been named among the CyberPeace Institute’s four Cyber Peace Champions of 2021, alongside CitizenLab, Forensic Architecture, and Operation Gold Dust.
Disinformation self-proclaimed experts: Spreading COVID-19 disinformation under the guise of expertise
Confronted with unprecedented events, people turn to experts for answers. However, in an era where expertise becomes a matter of credibility and reputation over competence and knowledge, this may lead to disinformation. Our new study uses 1,168 fact-checks collected in Italy in 2020 to identify a three-fold typology of actors that, thanks to their visibility, transmitted and amplified COVID-19 disinformation. These are politicians (72% from populist parties), disinformation and conspiracy super-spreaders, and doctors and scientists, either ‘traditional’ ones underestimating the pandemic or ‘deviated’ ones feeding into virus-related conspiracies. The analysis highlights the difficulty of defining expertise in a period when facts and opinions become blurred. Moreover, it emphasises the dangers of spreading disinformation on delicate issues such as the pandemic under the guise of expertise.
The Many Faces Fighting Disinformation: Supporting Europe’s Counter-Disinformation Community
In a new report gathering the insights of over 90 actors across EU member states, we explore the barriers and enablers to a resilient, autonomous European counter-disinformation ecosystem. European civil society is rising to the disinformation challenge with new types of expertise – from public databases to digital forensics to media literacy experiments. But this movement must be properly nurtured. Europe’s counter-disinformation network is nascent and its autonomy and impact are not guaranteed. Most actors are not well resourced. Meanwhile, the counter-disinformation field is a conflictual environment where court cases, frivolous lawsuits, and reputational attacks pose significant threats. Based on the data gathered, we offer recommendations both for donors and for civil society organisations themselves. We built a Community Support Hub with a comprehensive mapping of relevant funding. This project is supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Brussels.
EU DisinfoLab Monthly Trends
Highlights from our December monitoring of fact-checked disinformation in Germany, France, and Spain:
- German media discovered alleged plans, published on a Telegram channel, to assassinate the Prime Minister of Saxony. The episode triggered an unprecedented debate about how to restrict disinformative, violent, or hateful content on the app, including the radical possibility of shutting down Telegram in the country.
- As the French presidential election approach, hoaxes such as the claim that first lady Brigitte Macron is a transgender woman raise the question of the media’s treatment of disinformation, giving consistent visibility to fringe content.
- In Spain, a decontexualised image went viral, comparing Nazi Germany’s health passport to the Covid-19 health pass.
Events and Announcements
- 25 Jan – The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) is hosting a webinar on Combating Russian Gendered Disinformation Campaigns, featuring EU DisinfoLab’s Maria Giovanna Sessa. Sign-up here.
- 26 Jan – EuroISPA, the Internet Service Providers Association, is hosting a panel discussion on the DSA and expectations for the upcoming trilogue negotiations. Register here.
- 27 Jan – Europe Calling is holding a discussion on the Digital Services Act. Moderated by MEP Alexandra Geese and including Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen and author Peter Pomerantsev. More here.
- 1 Feb – ISD holding a webinar to present their work on the mobilization of the French identitarian movement on social media (in French). Sign-up here.
- The European Commission opened a call for proposals on the preparation and implementation of a course on the EU and on EU Cohesion policy for higher education institutions teaching journalism, to deepen journalistic understanding of the EU. View the call here.
- China Index, led by Doublethink Lab, is holding an open call to invite applicants from non-governmental organizations, community groups, think tanks, research institutes, universities, and individuals from around the world to become our regional partners. Apply here.
- Bratislava-based think tank GLOBSEC is hiring for several roles.
- The European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO) is hiring a Junior Manager for Technology, Supply Chain and Strategic Autonomy.
- RIPE NCC, Regional Internet Registry for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, is hiring a Marketing and Communications Officer, a Financial Administrator Accounts Payable (AFAS), a Chief Information Security Officer, and a Risk & Compliance Manager.