Disinformation updates from Russia, Philippines and Kenya
The news from this week has been grim with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
As we all hope for a de-escalation, disinformation experts have raised caution against an online onslaught of propaganda and false narratives which are already on the rise. We bring you NBC New's report on the disinformation crisis that we ought to heed.
This week we are also following the anti-disinformation efforts in the Philippines wherein Meedan’s partner, Rappler, and the The Commission on Elections (Comelec) have joined hands in addressing election disinformation in 2022.
We also bring you updates on Mozilla foundation’s research on how foreign right wing groups are running disinformation campaigns against two critical bills focused on reproductive health in Kenya. Other updates include, the rise of online attacks and harassment of outspoken Muslim women in India and the efforts in Latin America to combat false information by disseminating content in native languages.
We, at Meedan, are delighted to welcome back Dwight Knell and Ahmed Mostafa to the family in new and exciting roles.
If there are updates you would like us to share from your country or region, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
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The latest top stories
Disinformation experts say that they have seen a concerted effort from Russian leaders and state-backed media to push a false narrative around the reasons for invading Ukraine, and that they expect that to continue as both international pressure and even some domestic Russian resistance to war grows.
“We’re going to see a huge onslaught. And we need to be prepared for that…They can create the illusion that Ukraine is not fighting back when it is. It will also play on gaps in knowledge on Western audiences in particular who have not been paying attention to a war that has been going on for eight years.” — Jane Lytvynenko, senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Philippines’ top digital-only news site Rappler will sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on Thursday, February 24, for a series of projects in the run-up to the 2022 elections. Rappler will collaborate with the Comelec for a fact-checking initiative, with the former alerting the latter of false and misleading online election-related claims that could undermine the election’s integrity.
“Access to information is critical. It is just as critical that we immediately squash false, misleading, and harmful election-related information on social media.” — James Jimenez, Spokesperson, The Commission on Elections, Philippines.
Exporting Disinformation: How Foreign Groups Peddle Influence in Kenya through Twitter (Mozilla Foundation)
New research published by the Mozilla Foundation shows that two critical pieces of legislation focused on reproductive health in Kenya were the subject of an online misinformation campaign by a right wing Spanish NGO, ultimately leading to one of them being withdrawn. The two bills aimed to outlaw forced sterilizations; make prenatal, delivery and postnatal services free to every woman in the country; and develop standards, regulations and guidelines on assisted reproduction, but opponents of the bill claimed that it opened the way for legalized abortion and use of contraceptives among adolescents, which is false.
“Twitter has not sufficiently invested the resources — from understanding the cultural context to adequate staff to internal prioritization — to meaningfully address the ways in which the platform can be weaponized by bad actors. And, how this grows more and more precarious as Kenya’s 2022 election approaches.” — Odanga Madung, Mozilla fellow
Online “auctions” of women are just the latest attacks on Muslims in India (MIT Technology Review)
Reports of Islamophobia and misinformation against Muslims, particularly women, are rife. In early January, names and photographs of more than 100 Muslim women were displayed on a fake auction site, “Bulli Bai”—a slur against Muslim women, hosted anonymously on GitHub. But the event was only one of the latest online incidents targeting Muslims in India—and Muslim women in particular. Muslim women targeted by the auction sites have included journalists, activists, lawyers, politicians, radio hosts, pilots, and scholars; they’re active on social media and speak out about issues, and specifically about rising Islamophobia in India.
“I think the attack was to silence those who are vocal on social media. This was a hate crime against Muslim women particularly.” — Qurat-Ul-Ain Rehbar, a journalist based in Indian-administered Kashmir and one of the women hose names and photographs were displayed on the fake auction
Latin American journalists present projects that combat disinformation and disseminate content in original languages (Convoca)
In a panel discussion, How to tell stories in native languages?, organized by Convoca.pe as part of the II Congress of Investigative Journalism from the Regions, journalists from Peru, Ecuador and Argentina explained their Latin American projects carried out in native languages to combat the abundance of false information that exists as a result of the pandemic and how they managed to make different verifiable content in native languages for Amazonian and Andean communities.
“The main objective of the project, at this time, is to disseminate verification content on the topics of the pandemic, with cultural relevance […], for this, support is sought from consultants in linguistics, anthropology and medical sciences to overcome the cultural gap.” — David Hidalgo, Journalistic director, Ojo Público
What’s new at Meedan
Dwight brings considerable operational experience from his previous roles at Hacks/Hackers and Common Sense Media, and we are excited about the perspective he will bring to our regular operations at the organization as we grow and expand our efforts. Over the next few weeks, Meedan’s Operations team will be making further announcements about our ongoing work.
We had the great pleasure of having Ahmed on team in 2015, where he worked on Bridge, a social media translation app. While Bridge is no longer active, many of the key learnings we gained around interactions around annotating and translating social media and working with global content inform our work on Check today.