On Europe Day, 9 May, the news about Facebook’s new elections operations centre in Dublin hit the wires. This time it is different. This time the social platforms take the fake news threat seriously. The European elections is particularly vulnerable to foreign manipulation.
In April, Facebook goes serious and bans the pan-European campaigns altogether. After all, one of the elements of the new Facebook policy is that no cross-border campaign on Facebook is possible. Remember the foreign involvement in the US 2016 elections? Consider the Chinese or the Russian threat.
The European political parties protest and are exempted from the practice. The big European families can pay for online continent-wide campaigns. The social initiatives, like #Gimme5EU, are not exempted. Our five blogs portrait the situation in our European countries for the wider European audience. Clearly this blog targets the non-Polish speakers interested in the Polish EU campaign. Still, I cannot promote it on Facebook outside of Poland, as it contains political information.
My Facebook readers figures go down. Thank you Google for not forgetting my blog as most of my current readership comes from search engines.
Fake news foreign and domestic
Facebook is worried with misinformation, fake news, etc. It should be. EU is worried, too. The EU has decided it is time to act. There are great and important initiatives, inside and outside of the European Institutions. Just to give here three examples: first is the EU vs DisInfo is working on disinformation originating from Eastern Europe since 2015. This is an official task force put together by the EEAS, European External Action Service, or the EU foreign office.
The problem of the European institutions is that it is possible to agree on the external disinformation, yet it is much more difficult to agree on combating the internal disinformation. Or, the disinformation originating in our member states. In the context of this elections, the FactCheckEU.info is probably one of the better sources for fact checking. It is developed by the The International Fact-Checking Network that deals with fact checking for a longer while.
The IFCN problem? It covers 19 media outlets in 11 languages: English, French, German, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Croat, Portuguese, Swedish and Lithuanian. No Polish partner in the project, also no Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Romanian. Irish and Maltese equally are not included. C’est la vie. #Gimme5EU is also limited to a few countries, even if in recent weeks we have welcomed two new sister blogs: on the Lithuanian elections and the Portuguese vote.
Who fact checks in Poland in the context of the EU campaign? The best source for you is probably the Wojownicy Klawiatury, the Keyboard Warriors. There are already 6,700 warriors! The difference between the KW and other fact checkers is that Warriors are active directly on the Internet and they are regular Internet users, not journalists or officials. This cooperation is supported by the European Commission and backed up by certain EU officials and academics. Highly recommended.
Facebook bans pages
Facebook’s main tool of interfering with fake news or disinformation is to close down a page or an account. Oko.press, a liberal online magazine is actively monitoring all the political actors with their Internal activities. 17 May Oko.press informs about their latest success: following the Oko.press and Avaaz investigation Facebook just banned 13 pages with about 1.13 million subscribers.
Their main fault? Misinformation. Those pages start as i.e. photography lovers, and slowly transition to political issues. The wider Oko.press investigation identified 80 pages of 4.9 million subscriptions.
Oko.press: “fans who have been operating since 2016 have increased their ranges, including portals with anti-Western, anti-Ukrainian and anti-NATO fake news”. They perpetrated also pro-Russian views, according to the website.
The closed pages also promoted three politicians: ultra-right-winger Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a far-right deputy minister Adam Andruszkiewicz (who is responsible for the Polish relationship with… Facebook) and Leszek Miller, who is a left-wing former prime minister. Mr Korwin-Mikke and Mr Miller run for the European Parliament, Mr Korwin-Mikke is a candidate of Confederation, and Mr Miller of the European Coalition.