Disinformation campaigns are rewriting the past to influence the future.
Also, Meedan builds infrastructure to debunk false claims surrounding 2022 French elections
We hope you’re staying safe and healthy.
In this edition, we look at the various ways state and non-state actors are using disinformation to influence elections and public opinion.
But first, we have a quick announcement!
Last month, Meedan worked with AFP’s fact-checking unit to build infrastructure across multiple social media platforms to monitor and debunk false and misleading claims surrounding the 2022 French elections.
In the Philippines, an electoral campaign has rewritten the history of the country using false narratives to polish the image of the country's former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and to increase the popularity of his son who is running for the upcoming elections.
Another misinformation campaign in Vietnam is bringing the past to the conversation, while focusing on the war in Ukraine. Vietnamese influencers accused Ukrainians of slandering late president Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The false allegations have been viewed millions of times.
The latest meeting of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) concluded that increasing violence against journalists is the main challenge to the free press in the Americas. The association also said that imprisonment, forced exile of journalists, judicial harassment, and stigmatization are on the rise in the continent.
Finally, counter-misinformation laws are being used again to curb freedom of speech. The United Arab Emirates released a Lebanese physician after holding him for more than three weeks over a tweet he published years ago, The Associated Press reported.
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The latest top stories
How Vietnamese 'Putinistas' are spreading disinformation about Ukrainians (The Conversation)
Social media posts by Vietnamese influencers are spreading dangerous falsehoods about Ukrainians and lauding Vladimir Putin. In March 2022, a Vietnamese Facebook post accused Ukrainians of slandering late president Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. YouTube videos, TikTok clips and Facebook posts repeating the false allegations have been viewed millions of times, influencing Vietnamese perceptions about the righteousness of the Ukrainian struggle against Russia.
"It’s unclear whether the Vietnamese government supports these disinformation campaigns, but it seems unlikely since these groups and accounts only complicate and damage the government’s diplomatic policies. Vietnamese authorities are particularly effective in identifying unwanted internet content and taking it down. The fact that these Vietnamese “Putinistas” continue to thrive online indicates a certain degree of tolerance from the government." — Quoc Tan Trung Nguyen, author of the article and PhD Candidate, University of Victoria
With an upbeat music, an eight-minute clip peppered with photos of the bridges, power lines, specialist hospitals – even a nuclear power plant – built under Marcos Sr's rule, circulated on Facebook since last year in the Philippines with hashtags such as #Marcos Real Hero". For Marcos Jr's 10 million social media followers, videos like this feed the narrative of a lost era of economic greatness. It is this revisionist history that Marcos Jr has put at the centre of his campaign, which experts say is key to his rising popularity. The true legacy of Marcos Sr's infrastructure binge was a mountain of debt that ballooned from $843 million when he took office in 1965 to over $39 billion by the time he was deposed.
"How can history have been changed so drastically? With the help of social media platforms." — Maria Ressa, journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate
"Their disinformation game is top notch. They're resting comfortably in that disinformation infrastructure that has been quite important in their campaign." — Aries Arugay, a political scientist from the University of the Philippines Diliman
It has been a bleak six months for journalism in the Americas, says IAPA at conclusion of meeting (IFEX)
The mid-year meeting of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) concluded that increasing violence against journalists is the main challenge to the free press in the Americas. It also denounced an increase in imprisonment, the forced exile of journalists, judicial harassment, and stigmatization.
"The economic crisis of the media has deepened because digital platforms absorb a very high percentage of digital advertising. With their technology, audience data, economic resources and, above all, with journalistic content, these supranational companies have created a very successful revenue model – to the detriment of the newspaper industry," — IAPA President Jorge Canahuati
“We are not asking for gifts or subsidies (…). We are claiming our royalties. (…) We cannot evade our responsibilities and the platforms should not evade theirs either,” he added.
Data from Latin America and the Caribbean shows little cause to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, which this year is recognised by a global conference in Uruguay. But amid the bleak figures are also the indications of how the region can find a path back towards media development
"While the threat of violence to Latin American and Caribbean journalists is perhaps the most shocking, access to free, independent, and pluralistic media faces several challenges in the region. As elsewhere, digital advertising markets have undermined the commercial foundations of journalism. While journalistic entrepreneurs still find ways to fund their work, news deserts are a growing concern, including in Brazil and Colombia."
African governments guilty of stifling Press freedom (Newsday Zimbabwe)
African editors have decried the constant surveillance, intimidation and harassment by governments that journalists on the continent continue to experience. In a statement released ahead of World Press Freedom Day, the Southern Africa Editors' Forum called for the repeal of laws and practices that hamper the ability of journalists to operate freely, and for meaningful and equitable representation of women in positions of leadership in the media.
"In many African countries, the laws passed to address the phenomenon generally known as ’false news‘ or ’fake news‘ are broadly worded, and to date have solely been used to clamp down on the legitimate expression and operations of political dissenters, journalists and independent content producers” — Elizabeth M’ule, Southern Africa Editors' Forum co-ordinator
UAE releases Lebanese physician held for weeks over a tweet (Associated Press)
The United Arab Emirates released a Lebanese physician after holding him for more than three weeks over a tweet he published years ago.
"Earlier this year, the country passed a new, vaguely worded cybercrime law, which rights groups say further restricts online speech and proscribes prison terms for those who use the internet to share, document or report information that could harm the state’s interests, reputation or prestige. It also criminalizes spreading rumors and fake news."
What’s new at Meedan
Meedan worked with AFP’s fact-checking unit to build infrastructure across multiple social media platforms to monitor and debunk false and misleading claims surrounding the 2022 French elections.
The global news service used Meedan’s Check software to bring in claims from Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp, debunk them, and then send them back out to social media users. In total, the project brought in more than 2,000 conversations between social media users and AFP journalists, and led to more than 900 fact-checks published to audiences.