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Friday, April 23, 2021

Dear <<First Name>>,

Welcome to The Weekly Briefing, where we unpack the most important stories related to information disorder. If you're a new reader, thanks for signing up! 
The European Commission's Margrethe Vestager oversees digital policy for the EU. (Reuters)

Europe tackles AI-manipulated content

The EU Commission unveiled on Wednesday a stunningly wide-ranging proposal for regulating artificial intelligence. The draft rules were hailed as the first of their kind, cementing the bloc’s aspiration to be the global rule-maker for technology following GDPR in 2016.

In its sights were the predictable candidates: self-driving cars, job recruitment algorithms and facial recognition. But less predictable was how the EU would approach AI-manipulated content. 

Its sole intervention around that topic was a proposed obligation to “disclose that the content is generated through automated means.” Exemptions for “legitimate purposes,” such as law enforcement and freedom of expression, were mentioned in the proposal. It doesn’t specify what form disclosure should take, though possibilities include a textual, audio or visual warning.

This is a major step toward what has become known as “authenticity infrastructure.” Besides the proposal’s ambiguity — what qualifies as exempt on the grounds of freedom of expression, who is responsible for disclosure and what degree of AI manipulation makes disclosure necessary — there are some important points to address. 

First, the EU’s desired outcomes are “informed choices or to step back from a given situation.” This shows an understanding of the need for pause to reduce sharing of harmful content. But early research casts doubt on whether warnings on AI-generated content do much at all.

Second, these desired outcomes indicate a concern with “deepfakes,” which were mentioned four times in the report, based on their potential to mislead. But the abuse of women via deepfaked porn, which wasn’t mentioned, is the more clear and present danger.

There are also risks and unintended consequences with labeling AI-manipulated content. What happens when labels are erroneously applied? What happens when they are faked? And will they make unlabeled media seem more trustworthy?

In the coming weeks, First Draft will be publishing research on AI content labeling and its risks, in collaboration with the Partnership on AI nonprofit coalition. — Tommy Shane

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Trends and hashtags are a crucial part of how information and disinformation spread on TikTok. If you’re new to the video-sharing platform and want to understand it, check out our ultimate beginner’s guide on how to monitor TikTok content. This video, featuring First Draft Training Manager Laura Garcia, will also show you how to search on the app.

Facebook Knows It Was Used To Help Incite The Capitol Insurrection (BuzzFeed News)

As investigators continue to track down, identify and charge individuals who took part in the January 6 Capitol insurrection, a larger pattern of coordinated action — conducted in plain sight on social media platforms — is emerging. Facebook, having focused its preparations on election night misinformation, was blindsided November 3 by the Stop the Steal Group, which in a day’s time amassed hundreds of thousands of members. Facebook removed the Group on November 5, but by then Stop the Steal had catalyzed a movement that culminated in the Capitol riot. A blunt internal Facebook report, recently obtained by BuzzFeed News, paints a picture of content management policies constantly behind the curve, or as BuzzFeed reporters put it, “outmaneuvered by a powerful network of coordinated accounts that promoted groups where members glorified hate, incited violence, and sought to spread a big election lie.” Crucially, while Facebook prides itself on weeding out fake accounts, it is not prepared to deal with the harm caused by real people, the reporters write.

As extreme weather increases, climate misinformation adapts (Associated Press)

Even the most direct and devastating impacts of the climate crisis may not be enough to convince climate change deniers, who are proving to be resilient and adaptive, reports David Klepper. Citing recent examples, from the Texas freeze to wildfires in California and Australia, Klepper notes that “instead of focusing on denialism, climate misinformation is getting local, focused on extreme weather events tied to a changing climate.” In the case of Texas, that meant spreading the debunked claims that President Joe Biden’s energy policies were the root cause of the blackouts that followed the winter storms. Although the attention paid to climate-related misinformation may have decreased in some quarters recently, given the Covid-19 pandemic, the underlying problem has only become more acute. 


Listening to what trust in news means to users: qualitative evidence from four countries (Reuters Institute)

For many news audiences, trust in media is not clearly dependent on journalistic practices but rather less measurable factors, such as “likeability,” style, presentation and brand reputation. This is one of the key findings of a new study by the Reuters Institute looking at news audiences in Brazil, India, the UK and US. By conducting a series of interviews, key themes about the way audiences evaluated news organizations and journalism emerged. These included that most people had low trust in the information they saw on platforms, but this was linked to how they already viewed news organizations. Few respondents said that Covid-19 had changed how they evaluated the trustworthiness of news, and the editorial processes and practices of journalism were rarely central to securing their trust. 

Have you ever spotted misinformation and wanted to flag it to an expert? We want to interview people to understand how to help. We’re particularly interested in speaking to you if your job is not related to misinformation. 

If you are chosen to be interviewed, you’ll get a £50 voucher for your time. Fill out this short form to apply.
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