Fake News & Freedom of Expression:

Five centers of the NoC explore how the issue has been dealt within their respective countries, offering a glimpse of the worldwide discussion:


Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (BKC), Harvard University - United States

The U.S. was one of the epicenters of ‘fake news’ during the 2016 election. The evidence on the impact of the most egregious forms of disinformation is still thin. Although it likely helped to fuel partisan antipathy and exacerbate social tensions, our best estimates are that the behavioral impacts were small. It is very difficult to change the mind of voters. It did, however, cause significant damage by calling into question the integrity of democratic processes and highlighting the longstanding epistemic crisis in the U.S. The worst and most obvious forms of fake news in the U.S. are merely the tip of the iceberg and are indicative of much deeper political, social, and media issues that have been in the making for many decades. The changes in the Facebook news feed algorithm is perhaps the most important change since 2016. We have seen a significant decline in sharing of hyperpartisan political clickbait on Facebook. There has also been a strong reaction from civil society groups, academics, and philanthropic organizations with dozens of initiatives in various stages of incubation and development.

Researchers at the Berkman Klein Center have been engaged in research related to disinformation and information quality online on several fronts. Building on prior research into the 2016 U.S. election, we are using the Media Cloud platform to assess the flow of disinformation online and to better understand how political economy and network characteristics, among other factors, make some communities more vulnerable to manipulation.  We are exploring and testing quantitative approaches to identify coordinated campaigns online using metrics that include content, network structure, and temporal profiles. We are also currently studying the strengths and weaknesses of different methods for identifying and validating disinformation in media using human coders. Alongside this research, the Berkman Klein Center, in collaboration with partners research organizations, has organized a series of workshops and convenings on the topic, including a media ecosystems workshop at MIT in March and an upcoming event focused on disinformation at Harvard in the early summer.


Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) - Italy

The CMPF is actively involved in the debates regarding the spread of fake news in the political arena. The 2017 edition of the CMPF summer school for journalists and media practitioners was dedicated to journalism in the digital age with a focus on the issues surrounding fake news and propaganda. Moreover, at CMPF, we have been participating, as invited speakers, in different events in Europe dealing with this issue - including the informal seminar on media pluralism and the rule of law in the digital age organized by the Estonian Presidency of the European Union, available at http://cmpf.eui.eu/cmpf-estonian-presidency-seminar-media-pluralism-rule-law-digital-age-brussels-12-july-2017/.

The purpose of the seminar was to discuss what are the regulatory, cultural and social issues that the massive spreading of false information is posing to the rule of law. The seminar prepared the annual Council dialogue on the rule of law in the General Affairs Council on 17 October 2017: http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-12112-2017-INIT/en/pdf.

Furthermore, we also considered in our Media Pluralism Monitor the attempts to regulate/control fake news in Europe. In the case of Italy, a bill of law was presented last December to the Italian Senate proposing to introduce fines and prison sentences for people behind fake news, but it did not receive much support and, presumably, lost relevance due the parliamentary elections of March.


InternetLab - Brazil

The 2018 Brazilian elections will be the most digital in the history of Brazil and the use of the internet will be crucial to the success of candidates and political parties. The use of internet by political campaigns already happened in 2014, but it has become increasingly more relevant, especially since 2016. A study published by the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) that analyzed automated Twitter profiles pointed out that bots were responsible for the dissemination of fake news in social media platforms during the 2014 elections. In light of that, different Brazilian government bodies are seeking ways to address, monitor and punish the deliberate dissemination of fake news, and the use of other mechanisms that might unduly influence how citizens receive information, especially in the electoral context. Between 2014 and 2018, the Electoral Justice approved a series of new rules regarding electoral campaigns on the internet. The elections of October 2018 will be the first elections in which paid advertisement in the internet will be permitted. Candidates will be allowed to pay to boost posts, but it will be prohibited to use bots or fake profiles to increase the visibility of content.

The Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court established a Consultative Council about Internet and Elections, with 11 members, including representatives of the Electoral Justice, the federal government, the Brazilian Army, the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin), among other entities. Its objective is to develop studies about electoral rules and the influence of the internet on elections, especially about the risk of fake news and the use of robots in the dissemination of information. In addition, the Federal Police has established a task force, which aims at developing strategies to prevent the production of fake news and to limit its reach. At the Brazilian National Congress, at least 14 bills were recently proposed aimed at combating and punishing the production and dissemination of fake news. The projects are still in the initial stage of the legislative process, but there are concerns that, if approved, they might be used by politicians to control the content available about them and to curtail freedom of expression. Considering the risks to civil liberties and digital rights, civil society organizations have been discussing alternatives to deal with the issue. The manifesto #Nãovaletudo ("Not everything is allowed") has been signed by 34 organizations and advocates the ethical use of technology in elections.

Regarding InternetLab’s activities to address these issues, we offered the course “Direito eleitoral e internet: fundamentos técnicos e tutela jurídica” (Electoral law and internet: technical foundations and legal protection), attended by electoral judges and their advisers, members of the Public Prosecutor's Office and from the Brazilian Bar Association. The course was based on the book “Direito eleitoral na era digital” (Electoral law in the digital age), which was written by InternetLab’s researchers and will be published soon. InternetLab also co-authored the book “Sobrevivendo nas redes” (Surviving the Networks), a guide about the use of internet platforms for political debate, which was published in March 2018. We were part of a panel in the event "Internet Challenges in the Democratic Debate and the Elections," held by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) and participated in the launch event of the "Platform for Freedom of Expression and Democracy" (Pled), created to promote discussions about the impact of fake news and its relation to freedom of expression and the political debate. InternetLab directors and researches also published Op-Eds and provided interviews to media outlets about the topic.


Institute of Communication Sciences (ISCC) - France

France's National Assembly is currently examining a bill of law on fake news. The drafts were first brought to the attention of the public due to leaks in the media (the first one was by Marc Rees in Nextinpact). The first text regroups the main provisions while the second (organic law) aims at enforcing these new dispositions during the period surrounding a presidential election: 

- Increased transparency from social media platforms regarding sponsored contents (disclosing the identities of advertisers paying to spread content).

- At election time: emergency procedure (“référé”) will allow judges to order media to take down fake news if it is massively and artificially spread.

- Social Media Platforms will also be required to scrub fake news notified by their users.

- France's regulator of audio-visual media, CSA, should see its powers strengthened (e.g. foreign-controlled media services).

The organic law was introduced on March 17 to the National Assembly: https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000036714890&dateTexte=&categorieLien=id.

The second bill regrouping the main provisions was published on March 22: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/15/pdf/propositions/pion0799.pdf

The Law committee and the Cultural affairs and Education Committee will now examine the texts. The draft bills on fake news will then be examined in mid-June by the National Assembly. Bruno Studer (LREM) should be appointed rapporteur for the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Naïma Moutchou (LREM) rapporteur for the Law committee.


QUT Digital Media Research Centre (DRMC) - Australia

Although accusations of ‘fake news’ between some politicians and journalists are now as commonplace in Australia as they are in many other nations, there is only limited evidence of any organized misinformation and disinformation campaigns attempting to disrupt and divert public debate. This may be an indication of Australia’s comparatively lesser stature on the international stage, making it a more minor target for malevolent actors than the major North American or European countries. The QUT Digital Media Research Centre is currently developing a research initiative to assess more systematically the level of ‘fake news’ and other problematic information circulating in Australia (with focus on social media dissemination and discussion) to generate more reliable data on the extent to which this is an existing or growing concern in this country.

That said, there has been considerable concern about the quality of news coverage in Australia for some time. For decades, ownership in the Australian news industry has been concentrated largely around public service media ABC, Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, and newspaper publisher Fairfax, raising serious questions about the diversity of Australian news coverage. This has been addressed somewhat by new domestic and international entries into the market, including Australian online editions of The Guardian, the Daily Mail, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed, but these new entries have in turn also exacerbated issues with the financial sustainability of Australian journalism. The Australian Senate has recently completed an inquiry into the Future of Public Interest Journalism that has addressed some of these matters, recommending especially that the federal government explore new avenues for ensuring the financial sustainability of both public service and commercial media outlets.



Upcoming Events:

  1. Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG): November 28th to 30th  - Annual Conference of the European Hub, which will be hosted at Haifa. More information  at: https://noc-europeanhub.net/#events 
  2. Laboratory for Internet Studies (LINIS): September 25th to 28th - Social Informatics 2018, to be held in Saint Petersburg, Russia. More information at: https://socinfo2018.hse.ru/

Past Events:

  1. Institute for Technology and Society (ITS Rio): July 16th - 20th / July 23rd - 27th, 2018 - 2nd International School of Law and Technology, which will be hosted in two different cities: Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. More information at: https://itsrio.org/en/cursos/international-school-of-law-and-technology/. 
  2. Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford: June 25th, 2018 - OII London Lecture: Does AI Have Gender? More information at: https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/events/oii-neff-lecture/.
  3. United Nations University Institute on Computing and Society (UNU-CS): June 14th, 2018 – Talk: Reflections on Advice and Information Services Work – 30 Years of Trying to Apply Technology. More information at: http://cs.unu.edu/events/.
  4. Nexa Center for Internet & Society (NEXA), Politecnico di Torino: July 11th, 2018 - 110° Mercoledì di Nexa - Il partito piattaforma. La trasformazione dell’organizzazione politica nell’era digitale. More information at: https://nexa.polito.it/mercoledi-110.
  5. Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D), American University in Cairo: June 9th, 2018 - Fifth Annual Workshop: Digital Technologies and Development: Mobilization, Censorship, Entrepreneurship and Copyright. More information at: http://conf.aucegypt.edu/A2K4D2015workshop.
  6. Cyberlaw Research Centre of the University of Lisbon School of Law (CIJIC): May 25th, 2018 - Welcome to the General Regulation on Data Protection. More information at: https://www.cijic.org/2018/03/20/boas-vindas-ao-regulamento-geral-proteccao-dados-25-maio-2018/.
  7. Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (BKC), Harvard University: May 22nd, 2018 - Art that Imitates Art: Computational Creativity and Creative Contracting. More information at: at: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2018/luncheon/05/Fjeld_Kortz.
  8. Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT): May 15th, 2018 - TILT Seminars. More information at: https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/show/event-tilt-seminar-jorge-contreras/.
  9. Institute of Communication Sciences (ISCC): May 14th, 2018 - Séminaire de l’ISCC - Figures remixées et singularisées du martyre sur YouTube: nouvelles pratiques mémorielles dans le contexte de la révolte en Syrie. More information at: http://www.iscc.cnrs.fr/spip.php?article2412.
  10. Institute for Technology and Society (ITS Rio):  May 3rd, 2018 - “Internet and Elections: what’s at stake”. In the 60th edition of the “ITS Varanda” we have brought activists, academics and journalists to discuss the impact of social media in the way in which political campaigns are made. More information at: https://itsrio.org/pt/varandas/eleicoes-em-rede-o-que-esta-em-jogo/.
  11. Centre for Internet & Society (CIS), Bangalore: April 27th, 2018 - Dialogues on AI - Ethics of AI for India. CIS organized the first session of the "Dialogues on AI" Roundtables in collaboration with Facebook on April 27, 2018 at Omidyar Network office in Bengaluru. More information at: https://cis-india.org/internet-governance/events/dialogues-on-ai-ethics-of-ai-for-india.
  12. DiploFoundation (Diplo): April 12th, 2018 - Hello, World: The Rise of Tech Diplomacy. The General Consulate of Switzerland in San Francisco, swissnex San Francisco, Diplo Foundation, and the Geneva Internet Platform co-organized the event, which focused on exploring various ways diplomacy has evolved in the Silicon Valley ecosystem, from tech ambassadors to dedicated innovation centers. More information at: https://www.diplomacy.edu/calendar/hello-world-rise-tech-diplomacy.
  13. Nexa Center for Internet & Society (Nexa), Politecnico di Torino: April 11th, 2018 - Il nuovo GDPR e l'impatto sulla Pubblica Amministrazione - The discussion will focus on the technological and process modalities that CSI Piemonte puts in place to reduce the risks of Data Breach, on the one hand, and on the other, the application of the concepts of privacy by design and by default. More information at: https://nexa.polito.it/mercoledi-106.
  14. Center for Information Technology, Society, and Law (ITSL), University of Zurich: April 10th, 2018 -  ITSL, together with the Research Center for Information Law FIR-HSG, uses these developments as an opportunity to assess its position and outlook on Open Access. The event is aimed at members of all disciplines and the interested public. More information at: http://www.itsl.uzh.ch/de/veranstaltungen/Open_Access.html.
  15. Unité de Droit Économique (UDE): March 22 - 23 2018 - COLLOQUE: International and Interdisciplinary Symposium ‘The Use of Law by Social Movements and Civil Society’, Brussels. More information at: http://www.droit-eco-ulb.be/index.php?id=5&tx_ttnews%5btt_news%5d=119&tx_ttnews%5bbackPid%5d=1&cHash=89ff72cec7e6f4454117719397e531dd.  
  16. Nordic Centre for Internet and Society: March 7th, 2018 - Christoph Lutz presented a work-in-progress paper at the 2018 General Online Research Conference, in Cologne, Germany. Available at: https://www.bi.edu/research/find-departments-and-research-centres/research-centres/nordic-centre-for-internet-and-society/news/gor-2018/.
  17. Elliott School of International Affairs: March 1st, 2018 - Pathways to Success: Career Accomplishments of Elliott School Women. The women spoke sagely of the spectrum of workplace issues that often start in a permissive environment where people are spoken over, shut out of meetings, and shut out of the decision-making process. More information at: https://blogs.gwu.edu/elliott360/2018/03/01/pathways-to-success-career-accomplishments-of-elliott-school-women/.
  18. Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS): We are holding a Summer School course on 2018 (applications ended on March) - Funding Journalism in the Digital Age. The goal of the course is to equip participants with substantive knowledge and strategic skills to address the funding problem in journalism. More information at: https://cmds.ceu.edu/2018-funding-journalism-digital-age.
  19. İstanbul Bilgi University IT Law Institute: February 2nd, 2018 - ICANN WHOIS & Data Protection Event - organized in cooperation with ICANN. In May, the European Union’s GDPR will go into effect. The impact of this law will extend beyond the European Union changing how companies around the world treat the personal data they process. More information at: https://itlaw.bilgi.edu.tr/en/news/icann-whois-data-protection-56/.
  20. QUT Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC): 2018 DMRC Summer School - was held in Brisbane, Australia, at Queensland University of Technology’s Creative Industries Precinct, part of the Kelvin Grove campus. More information at: https://research.qut.edu.au/dmrc/2018-dmrc-summer-school/.


Publications / Projects:

  1. Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D), American University in Cairo: We are developing a concept note on research on AI and Inclusion in the global South, open to collaboration with other NoC partners. More information at: http://schools.aucegypt.edu/Business/A2K4D/Pages/default.aspx.
  2. Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS): CMDS has launched the Media Influence Matrix Project to investigate the profound influence that rapid shifts in policy, sources of funding and technology companies in the public sphere are having on journalism today. More information at: https://cmds.ceu.edu/media-influence-matrix-whats-it-all-about.
  3. Derechos Digitales (DD): DD is conducting research projects on cybercrime reform, surveillance and smart cities. More information at: https://www.derechosdigitales.org/.
  4. DiploFoundation (Diplo): Artificial intelligence: Policy implications, applications, and developments. More information at: https://dig.watch/trends/artificial-intelligence.
  5. Centre for International Governance Innovation​: Artificial Intelligence is Trade Policy's New Frontier, by Susan Ariel Aaronson. An incredible amount of data flows over borders to power artificial intelligence — but the rules have not been fully or publicly debated. More information at: https://www.cigionline.org/articles/artificial-intelligence-trade-policys-new-frontier.
  6. Institute of Communication Sciences (ISCC): The ResisTIC project (funded by the French National Agency for Research), on the Russian Internet, launched on March 16th with a public event. More information at: http://www.iscc.cnrs.fr/spip.php?article2426.
  7. Internet Policy project group (POLI) at Berlin Social Science Center: The research group “Democracy and digitalization” studies the interrelation between processes of digitalization and the change of democratic institutions and practices. The research group “Quantification and regulation” investigates how forms of automated data processing become established as a means of political regulation. More information at: https://www.wzb.eu/en/research/digitalization-and-societal-transformation/internet-policy.
  8. InternetLab: “Sobrevivendo nas redes” (Surviving in the networks), a guide on disinformation and manipulation of political debate. Over 2018 this content will be transformed into a campaign for social networks. More information at: http://www.internetlab.org.br/pt/projetos/sobrevivendo-nas-redes/.
  9. Media Change & Innovation Division, University of Zurich: We are currently working on our new project - “The significance of algorithmic selection for everyday life” which is an on-going mixed-method project aimed at empirically investigating the significance of automated algorithmic selection applications on the Internet for everyday life in Switzerland. More information at: http://www.mediachange.ch/.
  10. Nexa Center for Internet & Society (NEXA), Politecnico di Torino: Presentation of the white paper of Italy on Artificial Intelligence and the Public sector, on March 21st, 2018. More information at: https://nexa.polito.it/libro-bianco-AI.
  11. Nordic Centre for Internet and Society: Two main projects: “Fair Labor in the Digitized Economy” (Funded by the Research Council of Norway and ongoing, 2016-2019) and “Future Ways of Working in the Digital Economy” (Funded by the Research Council of Norway, July 2018-December 2022) More information at: https://www.bi.edu/research/find-departments-and-research-centres/research-centres/nordic-centre-for-internet-and-society/.
  12. Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute (IRI), Stockholm University: Data protection in global networks – a comparative study between Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, inter alia on privacy protection, jurisdictional issues and cloud computing funded by Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg Foundations. More information at: https://irilaw.org/activities/projects/.
  13. The Governance Lab @ NYU (GOVLAB): Where and when AI and CI meet: exploring the intersection of artificial and collective intelligence towards the goal of innovating how we govern (February 21st, 2018). More information at: http://www.thegovlab.org/.
  14. Cyberlaw Research Centre of the University of Lisbon School of Law (CIJIC): Article published at CIJIC's Scientific Journal on CyberLaw. Title: We are Big Data: New Technologies and Personal Data Management. Authors: Eduardo Magrani & Renan Medeiros de Oliveira. More information at: https://www.cijic.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/WE-ARE-BIG-DATA_NEW-TECHNOLOGIES-AND-PERSONAL-DATA-MANAGEMENT.pdf