The Brussels’ Corner – Grilling Time
In preparation for the public hearings of the next European Commission, the European Parliament has published the written responses of the Commissioners-designate. They mostly provide general remarks relating to their portfolios. For disinformation and digital issues, we’ve outlined the main takeaways from the responses of the relevant Commissioners-designate:
The Digital Services Act
- Ensuring that digital platforms and the services they offer are there to serve citizens rather than the other way around, and that a strong ecosystem of digital players, including from Europe, can develop and strive in all sectors of the economy.
- Upgrading our liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services and products, the treatment of so-called ‘platform workers’, as well as the role of certain platforms as gatekeepers for users and for businesses in a number of key sectors of the digital economy.
European Democracy Action Plan
- A holistic approach and coherent standards in order to be effective on issues such as disinformation and online hate speech without compromising fundamental rights such as the freedom of speech.
- Practical solutions that ensure greater transparency in the area of paid political advertising and clearer rules on the financing of European political parties.
- Addressing issues such as access and use of data.
Digital Services Act
- Strengthening a level playing field for digital services; ensuring fair, responsible and transparent behaviour of online platforms; protecting our fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and privacy; keeping markets open and non-discriminatory to foster a data-driven economy.
- Clarity and effective processes for tackling the dissemination of illegal content online.
- Addressing emerging problems related inter alia to algorithmic decision making, data access, digital advertising, etc.’
Digital Education Action Plan
- Teachers should be a particular focus of this effort […] if we can improve the digital capacity and confidence of teachers, this in turn will help them equip young people with the digital skills they need, both for their professional life, and for their participation in society.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-read timetable for the hearings, Politico has it.
Facebook and the Act of Political Neutrality
In a blog post last week, Nick Clegg affirmed that Facebook will not fact-check politicians’ speech or block their content – even if it violates the site’s hate-speech rules or other policies. Clegg claims the idea is for users to ‘judge what politicians say themselves’. Facebook has followed in the footsteps of Twitter who in June of this year announced it would not prohibit politicians’ tweets that violated its rules. Twitter instead introduced a notice to preface the tweets, which states that, ‘the Twitter rules about abusive behaviour apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available’.
In the news…
- For future Indian elections, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Google and WhatsApp have agreed to follow a voluntary code of ethics as directed by the Electoral Commission of India. The code includes a ‘silent period’ applicable 48hrs before an election and more transparency regarding political advertisements.
- Using publicly available deepfake generation methods, Google has released a large dataset of self-made deepfake videos, which have been produced in an effort to help the research community create tools to detect deepfakes.
- It’s been discovered that the ‘I Love America’ Facebook page, which boasts an impressive 1.1 million likes, is surprisingly run by Ukrainians. The page pushes pro-Trump narratives via a network of Facebook pages that collect large audiences by posting memes about patriotism, Jesus, and cute dogs. Sound familiar? Recently, we published our study on Suavelos – the French white supremacist network that was also using popular causes to deceptively push an agenda.
- An ongoing investigation into the suspicious activity surrounding the Twitter hashtag #BritainIndependence and its role in stoking further divides between the two sides in the Brexit debate.
- A new study titled ‘The Global Disinformation Order’ by Oxford University researchers has revealed evidence of organised social media manipulation campaigns that have taken place in 70 countries since 2017.
- Graphika has uncovered a cross-platform Chinese political spam network that boosted attacks on the Hong Kong protesters by using hijacked or fake accounts on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. The behaviour appeared designed to support the Chinese government and discredit its critics, both at home and abroad.
Events and Announcements
- Alongside other CSOs, the Open Society European Policy Institute, and The European Consumer Organisation, EU DisinfoLab has co-signed a manifesto striving for a human-centric approach to European digital policies and regulation.
- 16 October @ EU DisinfoLab webinar – ‘Digital Architectures, Social Engineering, and Networked Disinformation on Social Media’ with Michael Bossetta. Pre-register here.
- 22 October @ Public Knowledge, Washington DC – EU DisinfoLab is coming to DC for an event on Joining Forces to Combat Disinformation: Cases and Regulatory Trends.
- 4-5 April @ European Solidarity Centre, Gdańsk, Poland – 7th edition of the Personal Democracy Forum.