Information Manipulation, Climate Misinformation and Media Literacy
Also, how a social media management tool was hijacked, new laws targeting false information about food shortages in Tunisia, and media literacy for over 50s in Brazil
We hope you’ve had a good week.
In this edition, Rappler CEO and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa speaks on information manipulation ahead of elections in the Philippines in May. We also highlight an investigation into Portuguese language climate misinformation spreading on YouTube, how Nigerian social media accounts were compromised to spread pro-Russian messages at the onset of the war in Ukraine, how a Tunisian law is likely to target ‘fake news’ around food shortages in the country, and a new media literacy course for over-50s in Brazil delivered via WhatsApp.
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The latest top stories
We’re All Being Manipulated the Same Way (The Atlantic)
Elections in the Philippines are scheduled for May 2022, and Filipinos are going to the polls to choose 18,000 posts, including the president and vice president. Rappler CEO and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa from the Philippines spoke at Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy, a conference hosted by The Atlantic and the University of Chicago, on April 6, 2022 on the need to maintain the integrity of facts in order to protect election integrity.
“An atom bomb has exploded in our information ecosystem. And here’s the reason why. I peg it to when journalists lost the gatekeeping powers. I wish we still had the gatekeeping powers, but we don’t. So what happened? Content creation was separated from distribution, and then the distribution had completely new rules that no one knew about. We experienced it in motion” — Maria Ressa, Rappler CEO and Nobel laureate
YouTube makes money and breaks its own rules with climate denialism content in Portuguese (Agência Pública)
Searching for “global warming” in Portuguese on YouTube's Brazil search bar surfaces denialist and uninformative videos about climate change. Results include climate misinformation by supporters of Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, and ruralistas (agribusiness representatives), an Agência Pública investigation has revealed, highlighting differences in how the platform's guidelines on misinformation differ around the world.
"YouTube is basically encouraging people to spread disinformation. Languages like Portuguese are important languages [for the network], but I think that YouTube's commercial focus is always, mainly, in the United States, where many videos still manage to pass these filters — Joachim Allgaier, researcher in communication and digital society at Hochschule Fulda
Nigerian social media accounts targeted in influence campaign centered on Ukraine invasion (The Record by Recorded Future)
A number of Nigerian social media accounts were compromised and used to post messages supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 27, shortly after the invasion began. These accounts are connected to Buffer, a social media management tool, to plan, post and monitor content. According to Buffer, 1,552 accounts were accessed by malicious actors in February, out of which 618 accounts were used to post 766 unauthorized messages and content supporting Russia's invasion. The attack has been identified as part of a wave of digital supply chain attacks targeting less secure services and platforms.
“We know what Russian disinformation campaigns have looked like in Africa in the past, so even if we can’t say these are Russian actors pushing these narratives at the moment, we can say it fits this established pattern of what inauthentic coordinated campaigns have done in the past — and Russia has a big incentive right now to be doing something similar” — Mark Duerksen, research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Tunisia: A new decree-law forbids the spreading of “false news and information” about food shortages and the food supply chain in the country. President Kais Saied issued Decree-Law 2022-14 on March 20, creating higher penalties for speculating on goods, with penalties ranging from 10 to 30 years of jail time for hoarding state-subsidized products like flour and planning to sell at a higher price later, with Amnesty International expressing concern over the likely impact that this would have over freedom of expression in the country.
“Tunisia is already suffering a long-standing economic and financial crisis. It is more important than ever that people in the country be free to discuss and debate the issues that affect them, including food security and goods supplies, without fear of prosecutions” — Amna Guellali, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International
Introducing Nexo, a WhatsApp course aimed at people over 50 to help them identify rumors and fake news on the internet (Nexo Journal)
The Comprova project, a coalition to verify misinformation led by Abraji (The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism) has launched a mini-course aimed at people over 50 years old in order to help them identify rumors and fake news on the internet. The mini course, which has been developed in partnership with 40 media outlets, will be delivered via WhatsApp, with daily lessons lasting 5-7 minutes over 10 days. Participants receive videos and text messages via the app with simple instructions and techniques to detect suspicious content and perform basic checks.
“Disinformation is pervasive and affects people with different levels of digital literacy, generating negative impacts on our relationships and institutions. We are excited to be able to help a wider audience reflect on their consumption of digital information” — Natalia Mazotte, president of Abraji.
What’s new at Meedan
Strengthening fact-checking with media literacy, technology & collaboration: Taiwan FactCheck Center
In this blogpost we share insights from Summer Chen, Editor in Chief at Taiwan FactCheck Center on the team’s various efforts to combat mis- and disinformation in Taiwan. Meedan has worked with the organization on different projects over the past two years, including media literacy programs, collaborations and using technology and AI for verification and fact-checking.