What do you think about the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation?

EU DisinfoLab is taking part in an independent assessment of the Code of Practice, led by VVA Economics and Policy. This assessment is being conducted on behalf of the European Commission. To do this, VVA has created a survey to collect expert feedback on the Code’s effectiveness, which will help inform the Commission’s next actions. Please let us know what you think via this link.

Coronavirus meets mis– and disinformation

While the whole world has been on high alert over the Coronavirus outbreak, mis– and disinformation has begun to thrive. On the Chinese app WeChat, a post circulated suggesting that the cities where patients had fallen sick should set off fireworks to kill the disease in the air. Moreover, Politifact reported on conspiracies flooding the information sphere. Among them, was the assertion that the Gates Foundation had predicted the virus months ago. Politifact later affirmed that “misinformation about the coronavirus has particularly taken root in Facebook groups for anti-vaccine advocates and believers in QAnon”. Paradoxically, a BBC article dated January 3 reported on how Wuhan police had punished citizens for publishing/forwarding “false information” online about a highly contagious disease.

Europe’s 2020 vision for disinfo

In the lead up to the Digital Services Act and the European Democracy Action Plan, a leaked European Commission document revealed how the EU will focus on addressing the lack of transparency in online advertising and reinforce regulatory oversight in a ‘Single-Market friendly’ manner. Last week, MEP Axel Voss advocated for the duty of care principle in which online platforms would bear more responsibility for the content they host, which comes into conflict with the S&D’s position, who collectively advocate for limited liability and transparency on algorithms. Only today, a timetable on the 2020 priorities of the European Commission was leaked, revealing that both the Digital Services Act and the European Democracy Action Plan’s timeline of adoption will commence in Autumn 2020.

In the news

— Singapore’s controversial law on online falsehoods and manipulation is increasingly gaining notoriety. Since last week, the government has served three orders of content removal. An op-ed featured in the New York Times argues that the government is using the law to curb criticism towards itself. 

— The Ukrainian government has launched an online platform designed to improve its citizens’ digital literacy. This also comes at the moment of the government’s draft legislation to combat Russian disinformation, which has been regarded as excessively harsh by media freedom watchdogs.

Good reads

How a disinformation network exploited satire to become a popular source of false news on Facebook: An excellent piece by Politifact that looks into how satire was used by a network to make a profit.

— Amidst the recent debate surrounding whether YouTube’s algorithm radicalises people, one The Conversation piece rightly recasts our attention towards the biggest issue – which is that we don’t really know how these algorithms work. As the author aptly puts it, “without transparency, it is hard to know what can be changed to improve the situation”.


Facebook’s Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior – An OSINT Analysis This concise piece records all of the known disinformation campaigns orchestrated on Facebook, highlighting how Facebook is failing to give enough information on its processes for identifying and removing campaigns. 

— According to a new study by Harvard University researchers, emphasising publishers doesn’t reduce misinformation. Experiments with nearly 7,000 Americans revealed that seeing a headline from a misinformation website did not make it less believable, and seeing a headline from a mainstream website did not make it more believable.

Events and Announcements

— We are on the lookout for exciting speakers for our upcoming webinar series. Have you read something interesting by a disinfo researcher, or is there a project you think we should feature? Give us your tips via the box at the bottom of the page.

— Bellingcat has released an online OSINT toolkit

— 29 January @ European Parliament, Brussels: STOA workshop – The Future of Artificial Intelligence

— 29 January @ Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the EU, Brussels: Digital Days: Political Content Online.

Check out EU DisinfoLab’s calendar


— Bellingcat is hiring a Data Scientist.