This week’s newsletter is brought to you by Maria Giovanna. I am a researcher at EU DisinfoLab, specialised in analysing Italian disinformation, and I will be filling in for Lauren this week. I will do my best to deliver the great content you are used to. The newsletter will be also taking a short summer break, so see you on August 18. Enjoy reading! 🙂
European Democracy Action Plan
Just when you thought you had enough to get through during this summer, the public consultation for the European Democracy Action Plan has now opened. Submit your contribution before 15th September.
The UK and Russia in focus
The UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee released its long-awaited report on Russian interference in the British democratic process last Tuesday. Regarding disinformation, the report notes that the UK is a clear target for Russia, later emphasising that the issue of Russian disinformation campaigns is a “hot potato,” with no one agency or governmental body taking a lead to tackle it. The British government released its own response to the report. Only recently, the British government acknowledged that Russians almost certainly tried to meddle in the 2019 UK general election through the illicit acquisition and online diffusion of government documents. The online amplification of the leaked documents as well as the tactics behind it were analysed by Graphika last December.
Straightening out the business model
Starting on 18 August, Google will ban advertisements promoting coronavirus conspiracy theories, removeadvertisements from pages that promote these theories, and demonetise entire sites that frequently violate the policy. Global Disinformation Index only recently released a report titled “Ad-funded COVID-19 Disinformation: Money, Tech & Brands,” which provides evidence of the ad funding of coronavirus conspiracy theories. According to GDI’s conservative estimates, based on 500 English-speaking coronavirus disinformation sites, $25 million will be generated from ad revenue in 2020.
- A loophole on Facebook is allowing global warming and climate change deniers to avoid fact-checking. According to the social network’s guidelines, climate-related content can be considered as ‘opinion’ and thus be spared from fact-checking. On the forefront of the dispute, there is CO2 Coalition – a non-profit organization with ties to the Trump administration.
- Logically has investigated a network of white supremacist channels on Telegram. The goal of these groups is to intensify racial tensions online and spread disinformation in order to trigger civil unrest, either by trolling specific targets or trying to recruit new followers.
Tech vs. Disinfo
- Last week, Twitter announced that it would ban accounts related to the QAnon conspiracy theory. In addition, the tech platform will stop recommending content linked to QAnon and block URLs associated with it from being shared on the platform.
- Following its announcement in June, Facebook has begun labelling posts about voting from presidential candidates, regardless of whether they contain mis/disinformation. More specifically, posts from Donald Trump and Joe Biden were labelled last week.
- Transparency, communication and trust: The role of public communication in responding to the wave of disinformation about the new coronavirus – This OECD policy brief provides an overview of the new wave of disinformation surrounding COVID-19 and gives examples of state responses to it through public communication initiatives.
- A recent study by the Reuters Institute measured the levels of toxicity on Twitter during the pandemic. A higher volume of toxic messages than average was found in conversations around politicians and as containment measures were being implemented.
Events and Announcements
- A recording of the “Understanding Information Operations with Twitter Data” virtual event, co-hosted on 9 July by the Carnegie Partnership for Countering Influence Operations and Twitter, is available here.
- Listen to Color of Change’s Senior campaign director Brandi Collins-Dexter’s podcast on COVID-19 disinformation and Black communities.
- On 14 July, the Polish Press Agency (PAP) launched a new #FakeHunter Chatbot service to verify fake news on COVID-19.
- The podcast on “debunking the disinformation garbage fire” with debunker and Buzzfeed News senior reporter, Jane Lytvynenko, is available here.
- The DFRLab is sponsoring 120 DigitalSherlocks Scholarships to join the 360/Open Summit in Brussels in June 2021.
- The Journal of Social Network Analysis and Mining has opened a call for papers for a special issue on “Tackling COVID-19 Infodemic”. The submission deadline is 15 October 2020.
- Tuesday 28 July – Verification on the go: How to use your phone to verify online material, 16:00 BST/ 17:00 CEST.
- Tuesday 28 July – Disinformation, social media, and foreign interference: What can go wrong in the 2020 elections?, 14:00 EDT / 20:00 CEST.
- Wednesday 29 July – Global disinformation campaigns during the Covid-19 crisis, 14:00 CEST.
- Wednesday 29 July – What does it mean to protest today? Media manipulation and the movement for Black lives, 12 EDS / 18:00 CEST.
- First Draft is looking for a Senior Editor.
- Data & Society is looking for a Policy Director.
- AWO is hiring a Public Policy Associate.
- Avaaz is hiring Anti-disinformation Researchers to join their anti-disinformation team (preferably US-based).
- The Center for European Policy Analysis is seeking a Program Assistant for the Democratic Resilience program.