Disinfo News and Updates

  • Disinformation targeting Uyghurs. Last week Facebook announced new actions to disrupt a network of hackers targeting the Uyghur community, including individuals living in the United States, Turkey, Syria, Australia and Canada. The hackers used fake accounts, posing as activists, journalists and other sympathetic figures, to direct their targets to compromised websites.
  • MV Ever Given. Bellingcat used open source research, in particular leveraging satellite imagery, to investigate the predicament of the container ship that had been jamming up the Suez Canal.
  • Covid-19 Misinformation. Facebook has frozen Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s Facebook page for violating its policies against spreading misinformation related to Covid-19, while promoting his “miracle drops”. For 30 days the page will be “read only”.

EU Policy Monitor

In the EU Institutions

  • European Media and Information Fund. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European University Institute will together form the European Media and Information Fund, which seeks to build resilience against online disinformation. The fund will support projects in the areas of: media literacy, online disinformation, fact-checking, and academic research. EDMO (the European Digital Media Observatory) will play an advisory role.
  • Code of Practice on Disinformation. According to the Commission’s updated work agenda, the new guidance on the Code of Practice will arrive on May 26. Meanwhile, platform signatories continue to report monthly on actions taken against COVID-19 vaccine disinformation; this month they highlight efforts to amplify authoritative content.

In Member States

  • Germany. Members of the German Bundestag and state parliaments have been targeted by spear phishing emails directing them towards a malware infected website. Several emails were compromised.
  • France. Last week Reporters Without Borders (RSF) filed a complaint against Facebook for “deceptive commercial practices”, accusing the company of failing to protect journalists and of otherwise failing to respect its commitments to fighting disinformation and moderating online hate targeted towards journalists.

The EU DisinfoLab on the revised Code of Practice

The EU DisinfoLab submitted a position to the European Commission on the forthcoming guidance for a new EU-wide Code of Practice on Disinformation. 

In a nutshell: The EU DisinfoLab sees the Code of Practice as a necessary, but transitional co-regulatory tool, capable of bridging the gap left between the current absence of EU-wide rules on disinformation and the eventual enforcement of the Digital Services Act in 2023/2024. The previous Code was too focused on tracking specific “behaviours” (which evolve too rapidly) and “content” (which changes form too easily). To better address disinformation, we urge the Commission to integrate a stronger focus on how disinformation is “distributed” across various types of platforms, traditional news sites, and different types of social media platforms. Moving forward, the EU DisinfoLab hopes the new Code can include a broader range of signatories, including crowdfunding platforms and closed messaging spaces like Telegram; more granular reporting obligations; and a more structured approach to monitoring enforcement with a permanent body, similar to the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) which was set up in the US to monitor the Presidential Election.

We organise more detailed feedback according to the four thematic areas of the multi-stakeholder dialogue: I) Integrity of Services & User Empowerment; II) Access to Data, Cooperation with Fact-Checkers and Researchers; III) Scrutiny of Ad Placements & Transparency of Political and Issue-Based Advertising; IV) KPIs & Monitoring of the Code of Practice.

Read our contribution here

Research, Studies, Syllabi…

  • An article in Wired by Renee DiRestsa and Tobias Rose-Stockwell argues that while the debate about misinformation continues to focus on content moderation, virality and reach are dynamics that must be addressed – through policy, education, and design.
  • A recent report from Avaaz highlights Facebook’s role in the Capitol Hill riots, exposing pages and groups that spread “violence-glorifying content” with a combined following of 32 million, and asserting that Facebook could have prevented billions of these views.
  • CITAP, the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life has assembled a Critical Disinformation Studies syllabus, “as a provocation to disinformation researchers to rethink many of the assumptions of our nascent field”.

Events and Announcements

  • March 30 (Today) – Join CEPA for a public panel with Dalia Bankauskaitė, Charles Burton, Geysha González, Jakub Kalenský, and Edward Lucas to discuss malign foreign information operations related to Covid-19. Sign up here.
  • April 3 – EFF’s Jillian York will be discussing her new book, Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism, with Ben Tarnoff at a virtual event hosted by San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore. Register here.
  • April 7 – Don’t miss our webinar with the lead authors of the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) report: Technology and Democracy: Understanding the Influence of Online Technologies on Political Behaviour and Decision-Making. Register here.
  • The Digital Freedom Fund is offering grants for digital rights litigation in Europe. Info and how to apply here.
  • Full Fact has launched a new consultation on a model for tackling information incidents, with a view to creating a five-level scheme to rank the severity of misinformation events Submit your feedback before 14 May.