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Dezinformacja: Trollin’ time in Poland
Yesterday, journalists for Newsweek Polska uncovered a Polish troll farm – Cat@Net, which had over 170 fake accounts on social media managed by just 14 people. Katarzyna – one of the journalists involved – went undercover and worked for Cat@Net from April to October 2019. Given the freshness of this, many accounts are still active. We unfortunately do not have any English-language articles, but the story will likely evolve. Here are some key takeaways:
- Cat@Net’s trolls used fake identities by posing as real Polish people with left-wing and right-wing views, with some defending the Law and Justice party’s views, while others doing the complete opposite.
- Between late 2017 and spring 2019, the trolls also worked for the Polish public broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP).
- It was also found that Cat@Net received state subsidies from employing disabled people as trolls (1.5m złoty or €350,000 since November 2015).
- In addition, the journalists involved have since published their entire investigation in the Portuguese newspaper Diário de Notícias.
Facebook had it rough from both sides of the Atlantic last week. While Facebook had announced further measures to protect the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and helped Graphika uncover a Russian operation targeting 2020, Zuckerberg was grilled during a U.S. congressional hearing on Thursday. This comes at the moment of Facebook’s VP Richard Allan detailing how Facebook is preparing for the next UK general election. The answer seems to be not very well in light of British MP and DCMS Chair Damian Collins’ recent letter to Facebook VP Nick Clegg.
- Germany’s Data Ethics Commission has released its opinion on regulating AI. A key suggestion is to regulate “algorithmic systems” according to a scale of 1 to 5, with accompanying transparency obligations that depend on their ranking. Some observers have said that this should be viewed as a blueprint for Europe’s own plans to regulate AI.
- Emmanuel Macron has nominated Thierry Breton to replace Slyvie Goulard as France’s next EU Commissioner. He will be assigned the same portfolio as Goulard had been. You can read up on Breton here.
- To Unreality and Beyond: Peter Pomerantsev takes us through the strategies of the “propaganda of unreality”, including the rejection of facts, nostalgia, conspiracy, and censorship through noise. He argues that our principles of resistance to it no longer work, and that we should instead focus on reforming the democratic governance of information.
- According to Peter Oborne for OpenDemocracy, British journalists have become a part of the UK government’s “fake news machine”. This was later reaffirmed at the weekend by Sky News’ Adam Boulton.
- The Center for Climate Change Communication has released a report detailing how the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change. The report notes that the strategy, tactics, and arguments used by the fossil fuel industry “come straight out of the tobacco industry’s playbook for delaying tobacco control”.
- YouTube’s algorithm doesn’t radicalise people? New research suggests we should actually be more worried about the communities that form around online right-wing content, especially since it’s entered the mainstream. Wired has summarised this for us.
Events and Announcements
Happy UNESCO Global Media and Information Literacy Week!
- Last Thursday, Twitter published a handbook for teachers and parents who want to educate children on how to spot disinformation.
- In speaking at a European audiovisual regulators’ meeting last week, Facebook and Google both signalled their strong willingness to cooperate with regulators on media literacy.
- On 18th October, EU DisinfoLab held its monthly webinar on “Digital Architectures, Social Engineering, and Networked Disinformation” with Michael Bossetta. You can read a summary of it here.
- 13-14 November @ Brussels: Virtual Insanity? The need to guarantee transparency in digital political advertising hosted by European Partnership for Democracy.
- We’ve created a handy compilation of online tools to monitor disinformation.