Misattributed videos, misused platforms and malicious data collection
Falsely attributed videos spreading false information on the Russia-Ukraine war, Truecaller's questionable data practices in India, and Google's response to Brazil's Fake News Bill
We hope you’re having a great week.
In this edition, we look at how misrepresented videos from the Middle East are being used to spread misinformation around Russia’s war with and Ukraine, how Truecaller is using gaps in India’s privacy laws to advance its business, Google’s latest move to warn users in Brazil against the country’s Fake News Bill in the search bar and on the Chrome browser, revelations that Facebook offers cheaper ad deals to India’s ruling BJP over other political parties, why it’s hard to stop social media from being being misused in Kenya’s political arena, and fake news, partisan media and rhetoric in Yemen.
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The latest top stories
Russia-Ukraine war: These videos of the invasion are actually from the Middle East (Middle East Eye)
Misleading clips from Syria, Libya, Lebanon and Palestine go viral as they get falsely attributed to the Ukrainian war. Much of the viral content purporting to show fighting between Russia and Ukraine is actually coming from the North Africa and West Asia region. In this report, Middle East Eye takes a look at some of the misinformation spreading online, originating from the region.
"As is almost always the case in times of war, the online information environment becomes polluted incredibly quickly. Old and recycled videos begin circulating online, sometimes innocently by people who don’t know better, and other times by malicious actors seeking to sow panic and chaos" — Layla Mashkoor, associate editor at the Digital Forensic Research Lab
A weeks-long investigation by The Caravan, an independent magazine, shows TrueCaller, a Swedish company, has used India’s lack of a comprehensive legal framework surrounding data protection to advance its business.
Interviews with a former senior employee who worked with the company for over half a decade, lawyers specializing in privacy laws, and experts at policy research think tanks revealed that the majority of Truecaller’s datasets are comprised of information that has been collected without a user’s consent — a feat made possible by the lack of a comprehensive legal framework surrounding data protection in India.
““Apart from tracking your calls, their duration, and your most and least favorite contacts, the Truecaller software can build your detailed financial profile, as it has access to your SMS [messages]. The company’s algorithm can read the content of text messages. With a special feature called ‘SMS categorizer,’ the Truecaller software is able to recognize personal, high-priority [bank OTPs and transactions], and also spam messages of its registered user” — Former senior Truecaller employee
Google puts alert message against Fake News Bill in Brazil in the search bar and Chrome - (tecnoblog)
Brazil’s Fake News Bill (PL 2630/2020) proposes that search and social media providers with more than 2 million registered users provide data on how moderation tools act to penalize accounts and content. The bill would also force big tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, to pay news agencies for making content available on their pages.
Google previously used the same tactic - posting a link on the main search page to the open letter it published against the Fake News Bill - in Australia in 2019. They published a letter and added the alert message to the search page against a bill in Australia that would require it to pay for journalistic content available on its website.
We are not opposed to the objective proposed by the bill, of combating disinformation, but as the text stands now, it will not achieve that goal. We believe that the fight against disinformation will be more effective through dialogue and joint commitments between government, business and civil society” — Fabio Coelho, President of Google Brazil
Social media is being misused in Kenya's political arena. Why it's hard to stop it (The Conversation)
Social media platforms have acted as important sites for political deliberation and dialogue in Kenya, taking over the vacuum left from the decline of mainstream media. Public trust in the media has waned due to misinformation and disinformation campaigns propagated by the state, as well as extensions of the state, and the lack of safeguards against misinformation have led to a proliferation of bad actors working to manipulate public perception.
“Disinformation and misinformation practices, especially at election time in Kenya, aren’t new. But platform media provide easier and faster ways of fabricating information and distributing it at scale. Those involved are doing so with little fear due to the platforms’ ability to enable anonymity and pseudonimity” — George Ogola, Senior Lecturer in Journalism, University of Central Lancashire
A Conversation on Fighting Disinformation in Yemen (Yemen Policy Center)
Sidq Yemen is an independent online platform established in 2019 that specializes in fact checking viral Yemeni news stories and countering mis- and disinformation. The Yemen Policy Center spoke with Sidq to discuss fake news in Yemen and partisan media and rhetoric.
The biggest challenge is the security risk for journalists generally and for investigative journalists or fact checkers in particular, since no party in Yemen likes those who expose their lies — Sidq Yemen Team
What’s new at Meedan
Two years into COVID-19, we are finding out that just as the benefits of moderating health misinformation are disproportionate, so are consequences of not equitably moderating health misinformation online. Certain content moderation approaches can, in fact, exacerbate inequities or create new ones. Preventing, moderating and debunking health misinformation can improve the public’s health and well-being, but not all anti-misinformation techniques are felt equally. How can we use and center public health approaches as a guide in these conversations?