Project Description

Credit: IE/Alexia Barakou


The disinformation machine

April 14th, 2019

Credits: Art Direction & Motion Graphics Design: Alexia Barakou Sound design: Panagiotis Papagiannopoulos & Alexis Koukias-Pantelis Narration: Pavlos Zafiropoulos

Disinformation has been an element of politics since politics began, with propaganda used by governments and their intelligence agencies to influence the political landscape both at home and abroad. But disinformation and misleading narratives have been, for the most part the privilege of those in power.

The rise of digital platforms has changed this, and faster than society, laws and even politicians can keep up with. Now minor (and often malevolent) actors and political fringe groups have access to a far-reaching medium that can be used to proliferate disinformation and stir resentments of all kind.

There are plausible arguments to link the rise of the Neo-nationalists in the US and across Europe with this new phenomenon.

The Investigate Europe team of journalists has spoken to more than 100 experts, scientists, politicians and social media platform staff to find out how the disinformation engine works, who controls it, who uses it and how public authorities and companies react to it. The result: Europe is not sufficiently prepared to stop the disinformation machine.

This research shows:

– what methods the New Right uses to disseminate disinformation,

– that the marketing mechanisms of social media platforms offer ideal conditions for the New Right,

– that a specially created EU body to clarify disinformation is struggling with legitimacy and competence problems,

– that the national governments and the EU Commission will transfer control to the companies, namely Google, Facebook and Twitter, which will, however, earn money from the campaigns,

– that transparency standards for election advertising on the internet are not sufficient and, moreover, have so far only been partially implemented.

Publications started on 14th April and will continue until the European elections in May.

This article, by Nico Schmidt and Daphné Dupont-Nivet, was originally published by OpenDemocracy and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence. It shows how Google and Facebook put pressure on EU experts to soften European guidelines on online disinformation and fake news.

You can read the English version of a pre-news story that we published before the main publication, in an article by Nico Schmidt that originally appeared in Der Tagesspiegel and has been translated for this website. You will also find links to our media partners that have published the news in German, Dutch and Portuguese.

Media Partners

“Così crescono le bufale web”
“This is how web hoaxes grow”
“La Commissione Ue appalta alle aziende la “censura privata”
“The EU Commission contracts companies with “private censorship”
“Sono loro che decidono cosa oscurare e cosa no”
“Who decides what, and what not to hide”
“Fake news, così Facebook ha ricattato i commissari Ue”
“Fake news, so Facebook has blackmailed the EU commissioners”
“Partidos nacionalistas dominam o debate online na Europa”
“Nationalist parties dominate online debate in Europe”
“Chega e Iniciativa Liberal dominam campanha nas redes sociais”
“The political projects that dominate campaigns on social networks”
“Como o Facebook fez “chantagem” para não haver regulação europeia”
“How Facebook “blackmailed” us so that there is no European regulation”
“Facebook espalhou informação anti-semita que dizia combater”
“Facebook and the spread of anti-Semitic information”
“Europas høyreekstreme kan takke Trump og Youtube”
“Europe’s right-wing extremists can thank Trump and Youtube”
“En av tre redd for å bli lurt på sosiale medier
“One in three fears being duped on social media”
“EU på tå hev mot desinformasjon i Europavalgene”
“EU on alert for disinformation in the European elections”
“Jostein Gripsrud deltok i innvandringsdebatt. Plutselig kastet Facebook ham ut.”
“Jostein Gripsrud participated in a migration debate. Suddenly Facebook threw him out.”
“Teknologi truer demokratiet. Staten bruker brosjyre.”
“Technology threatens democracy. The state uses a brochure.”
“Alle elsket Facebook. Nå lurer mange på hva slags troll som er løs.”
“Everybody loved Facebook. Now many wonder what kind of troll is loose.”
“Faktasjekkerne er Facebooks innleide redaktører. Det vil avisredaktør ha slutt på”
“Factcheckers are Facebook’s contracted editors. Newspaper editor wants an end to that.”
“Javel? Kan dette være sant?”
“Ok? Could this be true? How to tell true from false? We asked the experts. Nowadays they are 16.”

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