Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is calling on international observers to help prevent “fake news” in the run-up to the country’s 2018 general election. Party leader Luigi Di Maio made the plea yesterday following allegations by the ruling Democratic Party (PD) that 5-Star supporters were using interlinked internet accounts to spread misinformation and smear the center-left government, says Reuters. Di Maio, whose party is leading the polls, wrote in a Facebook message: “The problem of fake news exists and we think it is necessary to have the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] monitor news and political debate during the election campaign.”Full Article: Facebook to help Italy prevent fake news ahead of 2018 election | The Week UK.
Italy: Bracing for Electoral Season of Fake News, Italy Demands Facebook’s Help | The New York Times
With critical national elections only months away, anxiety is building that Italy will be the next target of a destabilizing campaign of fake news and propaganda, prompting the leader of the country’s governing party to call on Facebook and other social media companies to police their platforms. “We ask the social networks, and especially Facebook, to help us have a clean electoral campaign,” Matteo Renzi, the leader of the Democratic Party, said in an interview on Thursday. “The quality of the democracy in Italy today depends on a response to these issues.” In a global atmosphere already thick with suspicion of Russian meddling in elections in the United States, France and Germany, as well as in the British referendum to leave the European Union and the Catalan independence movement in Spain, many analysts consider Italy to be the weak link in an increasingly vulnerable European Union.Full Article: Italy, Bracing for Electoral Season of Fake News, Demands Facebook’s Help - The New York Times.
Russian trolls used Twitter to challenge the validity of the U.S. presidential election months before it took place, according to new NBC News analysis. In apparent expectation of a Trump loss, the trolls began sowing seeds of doubt to make voters question a win by Hillary Clinton. But when Donald Trump’s victory began rolling in, they changed their tune and began tweeting about the Trump success. Kremlin propaganda tweets using the “VoterFraud” hashtag first appeared in August 2016 and slowly ramped up to an Election Day blitz, according to the NBC News analysis of some 36,000 archived tweets from a single anonymous source with knowledge of social media data.Full Article: Russian Twitter Trolls Stoked Voter Fraud Fear Before Election - NBC News.
A new international report has revealed more than a dozen nations fell prey to online manipulation and disinformation tactics during election cycles in the last year, risking internet freedom across the globe. The annual Freedom House “Freedom of the Net” report released on Tuesday found that at least 16 countries sustained attacks similar to Russian online meddling efforts reported during the U.S. 2016 presidential election. Overall, the study of 65 nations found internet freedoms have widely declined since last year’s report. Those 16 nations – Angola, Armenia, Colombia, Ecuador, France, The Gambia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Rwanda, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Zambia – had election campaigns that were touched by fake news reports and had websites and social media accounts vandalized, according to the findings. In some instances, political bots and hijacked accounts were also reported.Full Article: Report: Russia-Like Election Meddling Discovered in 16 Countries | Best Countries | US News.
Somaliland, the self-declared republic in northwestern Somalia, has announced it will restrict access to social media sites during its upcoming presidential elections. The electoral commission has asked phone companies to block more than a dozen social media outlets in order to limit hate speech and “fake news”. It includes Facebook, Twitter,WhatsApp, Snapchat, Viber, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Duo, Google Plus, among others. The commission blamed what it called “external forces” for spreading “inciteful and tribalistic” information (in Somali) and decried its inability to control the proliferation of these messages. As a result, the sites will be down starting from when voting ends on Nov. 13 up until the results are declared.Full Article: Somaliland is blocking Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and Viber during elections to avoid fake news — Quartz.
National: Facebook scrubbed potentially damning Russia data before researchers could analyze it further | Business Insider
Facebook removed thousands of posts shared during the 2016 election by accounts linked to Russia after a Columbia University social-media researcher, Jonathan Albright, used the company’s data-analytics tool to examine the reach of the Russian accounts. Albright, who discovered the content had reached a far broader audience than Facebook had initially acknowledged, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the data had allowed him “to at least reconstruct some of the pieces of the puzzle” of Russia’s election interference. “Not everything, but it allowed us to make sense of some of this thing,” he said.Full Article: Facebook scrubs Russia data from fake accounts - Business Insider Deutschland.
Sarah Rambatz became a target early last week. In the internet, right-wing agitators declared open season on the young woman from Hamburg. “What do we do with brainwashed traitors?” asked a user on KrautChan, a web platform popular among right-wing online activists. “Simply getting rid of her isn’t acceptable in a civilized society. Or is it?” The national spokesperson for the youth organization of the Left Party was hoping to become a member of Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, but now her political career lies in ruins. She had asked on Facebook for “anti-German film recommendations.” More specifically, she wrote: “Basically anything where Germans die.” After the post went public, her campaign ended. She is no longer seeking a seat. The screen shot of her tasteless Facebook post spread with lightning speed across social networks and a wave of hatred broke over the young woman, who was attacked with lines like: “This whore deserves to be screwed to death and dismembered.” On Wednesday, Rambatz told the Hamburg’s Morgenpost newspaper she was at wit’s end. “For several days, I have been in close contact with the police and other government security officials,” she told the paper. “My family and I are getting death threats.”Full Article: Trolls in Germany: Right-Wing Extremists Stir Internet Hate - SPIEGEL ONLINE.
On Wednesday, Facebook revealed that hundreds of Russia-based accounts had run anti-Hillary Clinton ads precisely aimed at Facebook users whose demographic profiles implied a vulnerability to political propaganda. It will take time to prove whether the account owners had any relationship with the Russian government, but one thing is clear: Facebook has contributed to, and profited from, the erosion of democratic norms in the United States and elsewhere. The audacity of a hostile foreign power trying to influence American voters rightly troubles us. But it should trouble us more that Facebook makes such manipulation so easy, and renders political ads exempt from the basic accountability and transparency that healthy democracy demands. The majority of the Facebook ads did not directly mention a presidential candidate, according to Alex Stamos, head of security at Facebook, but “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from L.G.B.T. matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”Full Article: Facebook Wins, Democracy Loses - The New York Times.
National: Facebook says likely Russia-based group paid for political ads during US election | The Guardian
Facebook said on Wednesday that it had found that an influence operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 on ads promoting divisive social and political messages in a two-year-period through May. The social media network said that many of the ads promoted 470 “inauthentic” accounts and pages that it has now suspended. The ads spread polarizing views on topics including immigration, race and gay rights, instead of backing a particular political candidate, it said. Facebook announced the findings in a blog post by its chief security officer, Alex Stamos, and said that it was cooperating with federal inquiries into influence operations during the 2016 US presidential election.Full Article: Facebook says likely Russia-based group paid for political ads during US election | Technology | The Guardian.
One morning in November, Simon Hegelich, a professor of political science at the Technical University of Munich, was surprised to get an urgent invitation from the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wanted to hear more about his research on the manipulation of voter sentiment. Less than two weeks earlier, the U.S. elections had ended in victory for Donald Trump, and the post-mortems were full of buzzwords the Chancellor urgently needed to understand: filter bubbles, bots, fake news, disinformation, much of it related to the claims that Russia had somehow hijacked the elections. “Basically she wanted to know what the hell is going on,” Hegelich recalls. What was past, Merkel thought, may be prologue. With German elections scheduled for Sept. 24, the Chancellor knows that her bid for a fourth term in office may be subject to the same dirty tricks employed in the U.S. presidential race. As Europe’s most powerful leader and its most determined critic of the Kremlin, Merkel has long been a target of Russian influence campaigns. Troves of emails were stolen from her political allies in 2015 by the same Russian hackers who later targeted the U.S. presidential race. During her 12 years in power, Merkel has also watched the Kremlin’s media apparatus air broadsides against her policies in a variety of languages, including German, English, Spanish and French.Full Article: German Election 2017: The Fact-Checkers Fighting Fake News | Time.com.
A week out from Kenya’s highly-anticipated August 8 election, increasingly fake news reports are circulating on social media platforms in the country. Slickly-produced news bulletins that at first glance appear to be from major international broadcasters including CNN and the BBC have surfaced in recent days. One bogus report cuts from a legitimate CNN Philippines broadcast to a fake voiceover segment which falsely implies that one candidate is leading over the other in a recent poll.Full Article: Kenya election: Fake CNN, BBC reports target voters - CNN.com.
With an election looming in September, fake news is big news in Germany. So concerned is the German government by a growing quantity of false and defamatory information online that it is going further than others in pressuring tech companies to better police their networks. Parliament approved a new law this month under which lawmakers could soon impose fines of up to €50 million on social media firms if they fail to remove criminal content like defamatory and hate-inciting posts quickly enough. “Something has changed,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament shortly after fake news played a prominent role in the U.S. election. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls … We must confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it.” It’s one thing to confront fake news and another to find a solution for it. Germany is hardly alone. Policymakers, the media and tech companies on both sides of the Atlantic have struggled for months now to improvise responses.Full Article: Germany’s anti-fake news lab yields mixed results – POLITICO.
Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries. Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.Full Article: Investigators look for links between Trump, Russia cyber operations | McClatchy Washington Bureau.
The common refrain floating around Washington argues that Russian operatives hoping to target American voters with fake news about Hilary Clinton would need someone on the inside—like, say, a Trump campaign staffer—to tell them which voters to target. Representative Adam Schiff raised the prospect in a widely-shared McClatchy article published Wednesday, which reported that the team led by Robert Mueller, the Department of Justice-appointed special counsel, is investigating ties between the Trump digital operation and Russia. Senator Mark Warner made a similar suggestion in an interview with Pod Save America recently, asking if the Russians could, on their own, “know how to target states and levels of voters” that Democrats weren’t even targeting. It’s a question worth asking, certainly. But the answer may be far simpler—and less fishy—than Warner, Schiff, or the many Americans seeking a smoking gun in the Russian meddling investigation might expect. It also may be even more worrisome. One of the most alarming parts of this story is that in this day and age, bad actors wouldn’t even need a mole to launch a pointed propaganda campaign. The fact is, targeting voters with propaganda isn’t that hard.Full Article: Russia Could Easily Spread Fake News Without Team Trump's Help | WIRED.
Facebook has criticised a new German law that would force social media companies to pay up to €50 million (£43 million) if they fail to remove hate speech and false news, saying it will encourage paranoid tech companies to delete legal content in order to avoid the hefty fines. In March, the German government proposed legislation to fine social media companies if they fail to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly. The plans were approved by Germany’s cabinet in April but they are yet to come into force. Now Facebook has responded to the new law, which is being referred to as the “Network Enforcement Act” or “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz” in German (NetzDG, for short). The Californian tech giant issued a statement over the weekend explaining why the draft law “is not suitable to combat hate speech and false news.”Full Article: Facebook says Germany's fake news rules don't comply with EU-law - Business Insider Deutschland.
The internet and social media pose an unprecedented threat to Australia’s democratic systems and an urgent response is needed to safeguard against attacks, according to a new report. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report drew on case studies from the US and found technology had enabled malicious foreign forces to potentially influence elections on a “scale and scope previously unseen”. “Two critical elements of the democratic process are under assault,” said the report’s author, Zoe Hawkins. “The security of our election infrastructure — think hacked voting machines — and the integrity of our public debates — think fake news.Full Article: Fake news, hacking threat to democracy now on 'unseen scale', report says - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
France: Official probe launched as Marine Le Pen is accused of deploying ‘fake news’ against Macron | The Independent
Marine Le Pen has been accused of using “fake news” during a head-to-head debate with Emmanuel Macron days before the final vote of France’s presidential election, after she alluded to allegations circulating online that her rival has an offshore account in the Bahamas. Mr Macron filed a legal complaint on Thursday, prompting the Paris prosecutor’s office to open a formal investigation into whether falsified documents and false online news were being used to influence voting ahead of Sunday’s second round ballot. The Front National candidate, who has been urged by her father and predecessor as party leader to adopt a “Trump-style” campaign, asked Mr Macron if the online rumours about his personal finances were true during a virulent exchange watched by 15 million people.Full Article: French election debate: Official probe launched as Marine Le Pen is accused of deploying 'fake news' against Macron | The Independent.
The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron confirmed on Friday that it had denied the pro-Kremlin media outlets Sputnik and Russia Today accreditations to cover the rest of his campaign. On Sunday, after it became clear that Mr. Macron and Marine Le Pen would face each other in the election runoff on May 7, the news media descended on Macron headquarters. But journalists from RT, Sputnik and Ruptly, a Russian video news agency, were denied access. Other Russian media outlets were accredited for the event, according to a spokeswoman for the campaign, who said RT and Sputnik were considered “alternative media” that produce “propaganda.”Full Article: Macron Denies Access to 2 Russian Media Outlets in French Campaign - The New York Times.
Ahead of the next month’s presidential election, Korean voters are deluged with fake news on major social media platforms, and the national election watchdog has so far cracked down on more than 30,000 cases of disinformation. The JoongAng Ilbo obtained a report on Wednesday from the National Election Commission’s Electoral Cyber Crime Center regarding its crackdowns on illegal internet postings concerning the 19th presidential election on May 9. The commission so far detected 31,004 fake news postings as of Tuesday. It is already 4.3 times higher than the total number of fake news stories shut down during the 2012 presidential election. Of the 31,004 postings, 20,104 contained fake news and false information, while 9,327 were announcements of illegal surveys. Another 762 contained slander against candidates and 375 were postings containing insults toward specific regions. The National Election Commission deleted the postings after its crackdowns.Full Article: Korean voters swamped by fake news reports on social media-INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily.
The flagging, scandal-plagued presidential campaign of François Fillon — a former prime minister of France much liked by the Kremlin but not so much, it seems, by French voters — received a surprise lift late last month with a report that he had staged a remarkable recovery in opinion polls and was now leading the pack ahead of voting this Sunday. “The Return of Fillon to the Head of Opinion Polls,” declared the bold headline, contradicting other French polls suggesting that the onetime favorite had fallen to third or even fourth place as he battled corruption charges. As it happens, Mr. Fillon’s lead in the polls existed only in a world of alternative facts shared by the French-language service of Sputnik, a state-funded Russian news operation with the motto “Telling the Untold.” For weeks, Sputnik and a second Russian outfit, the new French-language arm of RT, a Kremlin-funded television station, have published reports that critics characterized as “Telling the Untrue” but that fans welcomed as a breath of contrarian fresh air.Full Article: It’s France’s Turn to Worry About Election Meddling by Russia - The New York Times.