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From COVID-19 to Ukraine-related misinformation: Are Platforms Doing Any Better?

By Kalina Bontcheva, University of Sheffield The COVID-19 pandemic and related infodemic uncovered a wide range of weaknesses in their policies and actions towards tackling viral and harmful misinformation on COVID-19, which ranged widely from false cures to anti-vax narratives.  Specifically, our research (available from our COVID-19 Resource Hub) in the past two years uncovered a number of issues: Failure of platforms’ content moderation actions, in breach of their own policies, where we reviewed Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.  Inadequate enforcement of platform policies in smaller countries and non-English languages, where we studied France, Bulgaria, and the Philippines, as well as making cross-country/language comparisons.

Research is a core part of what we do. It involves identifying, uncovering, and explaining disinformation campaigns and networks, using open source investigation techniques (OSINT) and social media network analysis methodologies. We disseminate our findings via our partnerships with the media and leading experts in the field.

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By Kalina Bontcheva, University of Sheffield The COVID-19 pandemic and related infodemic uncovered a wide range of weaknesses in their policies and actions towards tackling viral and harmful misinformation on COVID-19, which ranged widely from false cures to anti-vax narratives.  Specifically, our research (available from our COVID-19 Resource Hub) in the past two years uncovered a number of issues: Failure of platforms’ content moderation actions, in breach of their own policies, where we reviewed Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.  Inadequate enforcement of platform policies in smaller countries and non-English languages, where we studied France, Bulgaria, and the Philippines, as well as making cross-country/language comparisons.
The VUB and EU DisinfoLab have joined forces under the EDMO BELUX project to publish its second investigation, “The disinformative ecosystem”, about the link-sharing behaviour of a subset of 30 Dutch-speaking Telegram far-right and conspiracy communities and to understand the information-sharing habits of controversial channels that gather thousands of members and to gain insight into the broader media sphere to which they pertain and on which they feed.
This piece draws on a 2022 RightsCon session co-organised by EU DisinfoLab and the Dangerous Speech Project. It brought together disinformation experts from Greece, Poland, and Sri Lanka to share their own experiences debunking mis/disinformation, focusing on how such content can contribute to intergroup violence.