It’s finally November 3rd. While this is likely not the end of US election-related mis- and disinformation, we’ve got your disinfo update from the EU (… mostly).

Disinfo News and Updates

  • In the last moments before the US elections, Wikipedia, Twitter, and Instagram introduce more features to slow and preempt dis- and misinformation. Meanwhile, misinformation has been spreading in private messages on WhatsApp, as well as over text messages and email.
  • Reporting on Foreign Interference. Clare Wardle reflects on how “the media has overcorrected on foreign interference” since the last US election. Meanwhile Ellen Nakashima weighs in on the risks that come from overstating the threat posed by foreign spies and hackers. Per Thomasa Rid, “both overstating and understating the threat of foreign interference can make you a useful idiot”.
  • A chilly climate for platform research? The Mozilla Foundation had led dozens of organizations in a letter demanding that Facebook back away from its threat to close down the NYU research project studying political ads on the platform: the NYU Ad Observatory
  • Yandex Transparency Reports. The Russian internet company Yandex has released their first transparency report on requests for user data by the  Russian authorities.  
  • Artificial Intelligence. The intelligence firm Primer is proving the utility of its AI system in dis- and misinformation identification and analysis, notably regarding tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • Lobbying. An internal Google lobbying document details a two-month plan to fight upcoming European regulation, including by influencing the public narrative.
  • Section 230. Protocol has a comprehensive overview of last week’s US senate hearings with Twitter, Facebook, and Google, understood to be a hyper-partisan disaster.

EU Policy Monitor

In the Parliament

  • Enhanced Product Safety. The Internal Market Committee unanimously adopted a resolution to further address the sale of dangerous goods and misleading practices online, as well as the safety and security of artificial intelligence. The plenary vote is scheduled for November.
  • Hate Speech. The Commission has sent formal notice to Estonia and Romania for failing to correctly transpose the European Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia.
  • DSA and DMA. Germany reveals its preferred approach to the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, “a combination of the introduction of clear obligations and prohibitions or restrictions of certain unfair trading practices – the so-called blacklist – and the adoption of tailor-made remedies on a case by case basis” as well as “clearly defined quantitative or qualitative criteria” to assess which platforms will fall under the regulation. Meanwhile Margrethe Vestager also gave insight into the components of these regulatory packages. 

In Member States

  • Terrorist Content. In the continued EU stalemate on terrorist content regulation, the French Minister of Justice has invited his counterparts from the Vendôme Group (Belgium, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), to new discussions. Shared agendas include encryption and the ability of states to extend categories of illegal content beyond the base established in the DSA. 
  • Finland. Finland has released its positions on the role of public international law in cyberspace.
  • Spain. A judge in Barcelona has opened an investigation into alleged misuse of public funds to fuel the Catalan separatist bid. The judge claims that a Russian group had offered “support” to former Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont. Also in Spain, the Spanish Congress has adopted a resolution pressing the Government to address online hate speech.

Other News

  • Phishing. Last Wednesday, Microsoft alerted that an Iranian hacker group had targeted government officials with fraudulent invites to the upcoming Munich Security Conference.
  • International Law. Over 100 public international lawyers have signed The Oxford Statement on International Law Protections Against Foreign Electoral Interference Through Digital Means, drawing on instruments from the ICCPR to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 
  • Georgia. Two cartographers were arrested on charges of treason last month for allegedly ignoring a 1930s map bolstering Georgia’s claims for territory currently part of Azerbaijan. 
  • The White Helmets. A Guardian long-read looks back at James Le Mesurier, the British co-founder of the Syrian rescue group, the White Helmets, who had been the focus of an online disinformation campaign led by Russian and Syrian officials and peddled by media networks.

Research & Studies

  • Deepfakes. A report by Democracy Reporting International examines the potential harm of this new threat.
  • ‘Fake News’. Richard Rogers from the University of Amsterdam has released a research note on the classification of ‘fake news’ (a term that often encompases hyper-partisan content), and the effects of stricter source classification schemes on our understanding of the scale of the problem.
  • Warning Labels. Research led by Jack Nassetta and Kimberly Gross at George Washington University found that prominently placed social media warning labels could mitigate the effects of election-related misinformation from the Russian media channel RT.
  • Influence Operations. The Institute for the Study of Diplomacy has released a new report on Information Operations, following a series of working group meetings on the topic.
  • Gendered Disinformation. A report by the National Democratic Institute looks at how online gendered disinformation is being used to “exclude women leaders and to undermine the role of women in public life”.

Events and Announcements

  • The 2020 Internet Governance Forum began virtually yesterday. Registration is still possible here
  • 4 – 6 Nov. Members of Horizontal Working Party on cyber issues will meet via videoconference. View the provisional agenda.
  • 9 Nov. will be the next meeting of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference and Disinformation (INGE).
  • 26 Nov. VUB-IES will hold the third installment of their series on the DSA with Dr. Inge Graef. Register here.
  • 14 Jan. Data & Society will host a workshop titled Against Platform Determinism. Apply before 21 Oct. More info here.
  • Test the DFRLab’s Foreign Interference Attribution Tracker (FIAT) beta, an interactive, open-source database that captures allegations of foreign interference regarding the US election.