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Uncovered: A network that boosts political polarisation in France managed from Ukraine
In cooperation with Le Monde, we uncovered two Facebook pages managed from Ukraine that support Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon – leaders of two major French political parties (from the far-right and far-left). These pages contain a great amount of disinformation. Here are the key takeaways:
- Most of the content on these pages comes from obscure media outlets, which are also based in Ukraine.
- The content from these websites was amplified by the two Facebook pages and disseminated via far-right and Yellow Vests Facebook groups. In this way, the person copy-pastes the content into these groups with no accompanying comments, suggesting they lack French language skills.
- We were able to link the sites and pages together into one whole network managed by a so-called “Ilya S”, as the obscure media outlets share the same IP address and advertising code.
- We believe that political polarisation seems to be the objective of this network – likely combined the aim to make money.
- These tactics could easily be deployed by anyone – without politicians even knowing about it. To date, we do not know whether Marine Le Pen or Jean-Luc Mélenchon is aware of these pages.
- You can read Le Monde’s coverage here.
What’s new with the Digital Services Act
Margrethe Vestager gave an exclusive interview to EURACTIV last week where she said that, with the prospective Digital Services Act, “the measures will take a long time to be approved”. She also aired her views on media freedom, affirming that “without a free press, public space will be muted, and therefore, there will be no democracy”. The New York Times also did a feature on Vestager, or rather big tech’s “toughest opponent”. In related news, in speaking at an event on the future of internet regulation, DG CONNECT’s Prabhat Agarwal shed light on the evolution and principles of the e-Commerce directive, and presented the forthcoming challenges to its successor, the Digital Services Act.
In the news
- Tim Berners-Lee has unveiled a global plan to save the Internet with the Contract for the Web. Worked on by over 80 organisations, the contract outlines nine central principles to safeguard the web – three each for governments, companies, and individuals.
- Last week, Twitter published the full details of their ban on political ads, and now Google has announced that it will ban political campaigns from targeting advertising at people based on their supposed political affiliation. According to Google, political groups will only be able to target ads based on “general categories”, such as age, gender, and rough location.
- There’s an interesting piece by Wired that reflects on the increasing capacities of AI software to create realistic disinformation. The article notes that such software “could reliably generate tweets on political topics […] complete with hashtags like #fakenews and #WakeUp America”.
- Fast Company has summarised a study that analysed retrospectively how Reddit users who would go on to be a part of a conspiracy-related forum differed from other users in the language they used and the differences in the social environments where they posted.
- Amnesty International has released a report on how the business model of Google and Facebook threatens human rights. Accordingly, the platforms’ concentrated power “goes hand in hand with the human rights impacts of the business model, and has created an accountability gap in which it is difficult for governments to hold companies to account”.
- Platform values and democratic elections: How can the law regulate digital disinformation? This new study looks into how governments can regulate the values of social media platforms, which underpin the platforms’ own approach to regulating the spread of disinformation online.
Events and Announcements
- 12 December @ Brussels, European Parliament – Automated Discrimination? How to prevent bias in AI and algorithmic decision-making.
- Access Now seeks a Legal Officer to be based in either New York or Brussels.
- Are you a computer scientist who knows how to map disinformation? Well, there’s an opportunity going to run a workshop in New York in mid January. If you’re interested, reply to this email, and we’ll put you in contact with the relevant people.