Disinfo News and Updates

  • Deepfake Diplomacy. Politicians from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and the Netherlands have been tricked into holding video meetings with someone impersonating Russian opposition figures using deekfake filters. A UK official was also targeted.
  • Meduza Labeled Foreign Agent. Russia’s Justice Ministry moved to label Latvia-based independent news outlet Meduza a “foreign agent”. The EU’s External Action Service has rejected the decision. 
  • Takedown Orders. The Indian government has ordered Twitter and Facebook to remove around one hundred posts from their platforms. The posts critique its handling of the pandemic.
  • Internal Content Moderation. Facebook tried to restrict employees from accessing an internal report evaluating the company’s failure to address the ‘stop the steal’ movement on the platform before the Capital Hill riot.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU Institutions

  • Digital Services Act.  The Dutch Permanent Representation to the EU presented two studies that encourage redefining the status of “host” and  the liability and responsibilities of hosting services. France for its part proposes to more explicitly regulate live streaming services, private messaging services, and search engines. Meanwhile 80 organisations have called for extending third-party vendor identification (“know your business customer” obligations) to all intermediaries. 
  • European Media Freedom Act. We should prepare a European Media Freedom Act to complement our legislative arsenal in order to ensure that media freedom and pluralism are the pillars of our democraciesannounced Internal Market Commissioner Breton last week before the European Parliament. The Act will build on the existing Audiovisual Media Service Directive (AVMSD).
  • European Artificial Intelligence Regulation. Last Wednesday the Commission presented its draft regulation on the use of AI technologies. The current draft is attentive to cybersecurity and cyberattacks, AI systems with “subliminal components”, and “AI-manipulated content”. However, despite four mentions of “deepfakes” in the text, it is not clear how more commonplace and pervasive use cases related to disinformation would be addressed. 

In Member States

  • Czechia. Last Thursday the Czech government expelled 60 diplomats and staff from the Russian embassy in Prague – a further response to the discovery of the GRU’s involvement in the 2014 explosion of a munitions depot in the country. More from Bellingcat’s investigations team.
  • Hungary. The Hungarian government has plans to build a Budapest campus of the Chinese Fudan University with Chinese contractors. Members of the Hungarian opposition fear the project poses a security risk to Hungary as well as the EU and NATO.

David Sputnik vs. Goliath Pfizer

Nicolas Hénin, EU DisinfoLab external researcher, has undertaken a narrative study of the coverage of vaccines by Russian state media in the French language, specifically in Sputnik France and Russia Today en français. The analysis looks at tweets from the Twitter accounts of Sputnik France and RT France, which provide a picture of the virality of the examined narratives.  These outlets set up an artificial confrontation between two vaccines: the smaller but resourceful Sputnik V “David” against the giant Pfizer “Goliath”. 

Read the publication here

Events and Announcements

  • April 27 (Today): Facebook, YouTube and Twitter executives will testify at the US Senate Judiciary hearing on algorithmic amplification at 10h ET/16h CEST. Livestream it here.
  • April 29 & May 27: VUB Brussels School of Governance is hosting two more DSA in Perspective seminars: 29/04, 15:00-16:00, DSA#7 Before and After Disinformation: the Normative Framework for Platform Regulation in Brazil, with Dr. Iglesias Keller, register here. & 27/05, 15:00-16:00, DSA#8 Safeguards for Freedom of Expression in the DSA, with Dr. Aleksandra Kuczerawy, register here.
  • April 29: Independent technology think tank DeBunk EU is hosting a COVID-19 disinformation briefing, with an introduction by H.E. Kevin Rex, Ambassador of Canada to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Register here.
  • April 29 & 30: Security Network Munich is hosting the 7th Munich Cybersecurity Conference: Cyber{IN}security – Rethinking Cyber Strategies in Tumultuous Times. More info here.

Reports, Long Reads, Videos…

  • The New York Times investigates “the slander industry”: websites which allow users to post negative comments about people and businesses sometimes have strong financial ties to websites charging tens of thousands of dollars to remove those posts.
  • Chainalysis’s 2021 Crypto Crime Report exposes how ransomware attacks can also carry a risk of violating (United States) sanctions.
  • FakeNews.pl, the counter-disinformation foundation, has released a video explaining their research on the Covid-19 disinformation coming from the Kremlin.
  • Maude Morrison and Adam Cooper of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue address the need for social media platforms to pay more attention to manipulation of peace negotiations – as they do for elections, for example – given the role of social media disinformation in conflict settings.