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DisinfoCheck Roundup October 2023

Edito

Welcome to DisinfoCheck Roundup, a newsletter packed with news, fact-checks, and research on disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg.

In this edition, we take a deep dive into the realm of election misinformation, where right-wing themes introduce themselves into the democratic debate ahead of the national elections in Luxembourg.

The electoral campaign for the national elections in Luxembourg has been launched since 4 September. No less than 12 parties are in the running to enter the Luxembourg parliament. When we consider the distribution of political opinions, we see that right-wing, even far-right, parties have gained in number since the 2018 elections. And with them the themes addressed in this electoral campaign.

Security, growth and immigration, the Luxembourgish language, and post-Covid individual freedom themes are common to all these parties, and the debate around those themes is often based on incomplete, distorted, or even false information.

The criticism of uncontrolled growth is one of the common threads of these right-wing party campaigns. The program of the largest of these parties, the ADR, currently represented in parliament, fuels the fear of the one million inhabitants state with its “disastrous” consequences for the quality of life of Luxembourgers. A referendum should, according to the ADR, decide whether the people want to move towards such a state or not. Growth is paralleled with immigration, which the right-wing parties want to be more qualitative. Above all, the narrative regarding asylum seekers is similar to that of far-right parties in other European countries. The ADR and parties in the same camp are calling for a stricter and more expeditious right of asylum for so-called unfounded requests, based on the economic advantages of Luxembourg, rather than on political reasons.

The security of the population is another theme of these right-wing parties, for which they easily divert official and European statistics. Based on Eurostat data on burglaries, Luxembourg is currently shown as one of the most dangerous countries in the European Union. These figures are delivered out of context in election rallies and on social media and do not correspond to reality. They are used for the sole purpose of creating a climate of insecurity and threat capable of legitimising demands to reduce immigration and the country’s growth. Candidates from far-right parties go so far as to request the extradition of “criminal” foreigners, accompanied by a territorial ban. Others require the right to self-defence, including permission to use a weapon to defend one’s home.

The slow but inevitable disappearance of the Luxembourgish language is another of these tailor-made themes which are supposed to alert the Luxembourgish electorate. Here too, far-right parties, including the ADR, rely on polls and statistics taken out of context to demonstrate that Luxembourg culture and identity are in danger.

The negative atmosphere created by extreme right-wing parties is relatively new for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. If the themes are often formulated in a nuanced manner in electoral programs, the candidates’ speeches often deviate on social media. To guarantee a balanced democratic debate throughout this electoral campaign, it will be necessary to closely follow the posts of these extreme candidates and, if necessary, to counteract disinformation via the national media.

RTL Luxembourg, 11 September 2023

Latest EDMO BELUX news

  • In Belgium, a revised educational guide called EVRAS has sparked a wildfire of online disinformation, leading to real-world damage and unrest. Falsely accused of promoting a sinister agenda, its effects have seen schools set ablaze and democracy threatened, just in a few weeks. As digital myths blur with reality, it becomes ever more urgent to combat such narratives. Read more here.
  • Mediawijs has developed three teachers’ manuals to teach young people from every grade of secondary education how to deal with news, online (dis)information, and how to form opinions. As part of the efforts of EDMO BELUX, they have been translated into English, and you can find them here.
  • Facing the evolving challenge of disinformation, multiple legal and non-legal frameworks have been implemented both at European and national level in EU Member States. EDMO BELUX looked at regulating disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg.

Our fact-checkers' corner

Through the end of September, our fact-check partners, AFP, RTBF and RTL-Luxembourg have published 800 fact-checks in the five languages covered by EDMO BELUX. As expected in today’s disinformation age, any major news event in the past months including the wildfires in Hawaii, the quake in Morocco, flooding in Libya, the Ukraine war and COVID has generated disinformation. We are also increasingly focusing on AI-generated disinformation as seen in this fact check on Tom Cruise and another about a robot beating a human at ping pong.

In this section, we highlight the recent top fact-check (in number of views) for each language. Visit our website to discover other fact-checks!

Did you check our top fact-checks?

Fact-checked by AFP (in English): Video shows Ukraine prisoner swap, contrary to pro-Russia claims Fact-checked by AFP (in French): Anti-COVID vaccines do not cause meat allergies [Original title, for FR translation: Les vaccins anti-Covid ne provoquent pas d’allergie à la viande] Fact-checked by AFP (in Dutch): No potentially fatal “new mosquito bite” has been discovered [Original title, for NL translation: Er is geen mogelijk dodelijke “nieuwe muggenbeet” ontdekt] Fact-checked by AFP (in German): This snow video shows a day in February in Turkey, not a summer day in Germany [Original title, for DE translation: Dieses Schneevideo zeigt einen Februartag in der Türkei, keinen Sommertag in Deutschland] Fact-checked by RTL Lëtzebuerg (in Luxembourgish): Does this graph show how radioactive water from Fukushima will be distributed in the sea? [Original title, for LU translation: Does this graph show how radioactive water from Fukushima will be distributed in the sea?]
Read More Read More Read More Read More Read More

Did you know?

  • How are very large online platforms and search engines implementing the commitments they’ve made to counter disinformation? Read the insightful analysis by Bulgarian-Romanian Observatory of Digital Media (BROD) of platforms’ actions against disinformation here, and GADMO and EDMO Ireland’s Code of Practice on Disinformation (CoP) Monitor, prepared in collaboration with several EDMO Hubs, here. This report by NORDIS focuses on how Western platform companies responded to the surge of disinformation following Russia’s war in Ukraine and how the Chinese social media company TikTok’s community guidelines have evolved concerning harmful content.
  • EDMO BELUX’s Bert Pieters (Mediawijs) and Martin Culot (Média Animation), were interviewed for the “Digital Media Literacy in EDMO Round Table” series on media literacy. Read the interview here.
  • The September edition of the Best of Fact-checking Map, showcasing the best fact-checking content produced by EDMO and the Hubs, is available here.
  • Despite its EU ban, a media outlet linked to the Russian state, Russia Today, still has a presence in the Netherlands and Belgium. by Benjamin Strick, Investigations Director at the Centre for Information Resilience, explains its efforts to circumvent sanctions.
  • Out of a wide range of media literacy interventions dealing with disinformation, BENEDMO has selected ten free resources that are recommended for Dutch speakers. Take a look at them here.

Events & Announcements

Upcoming:

  • 11-12 October: EU DisinfoLab Annual Conference brings together leading experts and stakeholders from across the disinformation world for a mix of sessions formats and exciting networking opportunities. Take a look at the programme
  • 12 October: The “Nieuws in de Klas-dag” (News in the Classroom Day), a must-attend event event for interested in empowering young people with the essential skills to navigate news and (dis)information in Flanders, will be organised in Brussels. Register here.
  • 26 October: Hosted by Google, the event Fighting Misinformation Online 2023 will take place in Brussels, and the afternoon session will be live streamed. Register here.
  • 13-14 November: The Conference ‘Tackling disinformation: Strengthening democracy through information integrity’ will take place in Paris. Register here.
  • 20-21 November: The first edition of the European Congress on Disinformation and Fact-Checking will take place in Madrid and online, focusing on the theme of “Disinformation Across the EU-Ukraine Media Landscape”. Register here.
  • 26-27 February 2024: EDMO Scientific Conference 2024 will be organised in Amsterdam. Call for papers is now open!
  • Check out the upcoming online training sessions organised as part of the EDMO Training Programme and apply here!

Past:

  • In September, we had the chance to follow two EDMO BELUX Lunch Lectures: On 4 September, Guillaume Kuster delivered a captivating presentation unveiling CheckFirst’s latest investigation into a large-scale scam operation preying on unsuspecting victims via Facebook advertisements. On 14 September, Bert Pieters shared valuable insights on effectively dealing with negativity encountered on social media platforms. Watch the recordings of the lectures here and here.
  • From 12 to 14 September, Victor Wiard and Geoffroy Patriarche presented some of the results of the research lead at UCL Louvain – Saint-Louis – Bruxelles for EDMO BELUX. The conference, held in Porto, Portugal, was called “Disrupted or disruptive audiences? From reception to participation in a post-truth era”. Find more info .
  • On 28 September, EDMO BELUX organised a round table discussion in Luxembourg on media literacy, educational tools to tackle disinformation, and artificial intelligence – read more here!

Publications

  • Tuters, M., Willaert, T. & Meyer, T. 2023. Real numbers. How science gets drawn into global conspiracy narratives. Issues in Science and Technology, Spring 2023, 32-36. https://doi.org/10.58875/POZR1536

Find the latest news and events, as well as research and publications on the EDMO BELUX website!

DisinfoCheck Roundup July 2023

Edito

Welcome to yet another DisinfoCheck Roundup, a newsletter packed with news, fact-checks, and research on disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg.

In this edition, focus will be on the disinformation trend related to the rapid rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) such as MidJourney or DALL-E. After the circulation of now-infamous pictures of Donald Trump in jail, Emmanuel macron among the protesters in France, or the pope Francis in a trendy coat, fact checkers have observed a surge in the use of this technology over the past few months. It has already had a substantial impact on the disinformation ecosystem in 2023.

Indeed, generative AI that allows users to, for example, create images from a simple text description is now a powerful tool for those who want to try to manipulate public opinions by supporting false narratives with images.

In late May, an image depicting an explosion near the Pentagon building in Washington was circulated on Twitter. Within minutes, it was shared by numerous verified accounts with blue check marks, including one that falsely claimed it was associated with Bloomberg News. While the content displayed characteristics consistent with being generated by artificial intelligence, it had time to have a concrete impact. Shortly after the image started circulating on Twitter, the US stock market took a noticeable dip.

Tools for detecting such technology are being developed to assist fact checkers in countering this new kind of disinformation. However, at this stage, no tool allows perfect detection. Therefore, it seems this is going to be a new game of hide and seek.

European legislation on AI aims to force the watermarking of AI generated content but as the technology is worldwide it seems this is only the beginning of a new era where the authenticity of images spread on social media are going to be more and more difficult to detect.

Grégoire Ryckmans, journalist, RTBF

Latest EDMO BELUX news

  • EDMO BELUX has published an executive summary that describes three key findings emanating from the comparative survey conducted in Spring 2022. The survey sought to gain insight in exposure to, belief in, perceived causes of, and solutions for disinformation in four regions – Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels, and Luxembourg – and its findings tell a cautionary tale. Read more.
  • Building on CheckFirst’s latest investigation that uncovered a massive scam involving more than 1500 Facebook ads luring users to over 160 domains hosting fake media sites, EU DisinfoLab and EDMO BELUX dug deeper into the Belgian cases – deceptive campaigns impersonating six news media organisations, including Le Soir and De Standaard. Read our investigation here.
  • EDMO BELUX published factsheets on the disinformation landscape in Belgium and Luxembourg, as part of the EU DisinfoLab series of country factsheets. They present the essentials of the disinformation landscape in each country in a short read, highlighting the most emblematic disinformation cases, recurrent narratives, the community actors, and the policy initiatives. Check out the Belgian factsheet here, and the Luxembourgish factsheet here.

Our fact-checkers' corner

Since the beginning of our project, our fact-checker partners, AFP, RTBF and RTL Luxembourg, have published 700 fact-checks across the five languages covered by EDMO BELUX! The war in Ukraine, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change – the usual recurring topics remain. However, there has also been a noticeable uptick in the number of fact-checks related to artificial intelligence. And given the increasing prevalence of AI in daily life and the use of these technologies to spread disinformation, we expect our digital investigation journalists to produce more fact-checks on the subject in coming months.

In this section, we highlight the recent top fact-check (in number of views) for each language. Visit our website to discover other fact-checks!

Did you check our top fact-checks?

NewsLetter - July EN

Fact-checked by AFP (in English): Computer-generated image of ‘giant’ does not show last living Neanderthal man Fact-checked by RTBF (in French): Is China using artificial intelligence to "control" pupils' brains? Fact-checked by AFP (in Dutch): Paris celebrates Pride month – but no giant rainbow flag has been installed around the Arc de Triomphe Fact-checked by AFP (in German): These videos do not show an electric car burning in Milan Fact-checked by RTL Lëtzebuerg (in Luxembourgish): Photos of Pope's wedding created with Artificial Intelligence
Read More Read More Read More Read More Read More

Did you know?

  • The European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO) publishes a monthly updated interactive map that showcases the best fact-checking content produced by EDMO and the national and regional Hubs. Check out the third edition here!
  • In the run-up to the elections, Mediawijs, together with other partners from Flanders, the Netherlands and Croatia, is working on three EDUboxes on politics, political language and ideology. These ready-to-use teaching materials to prepare young people for their first voting experience will be available – free of charge – in November.
  • Our VUB colleagues, Trisha Meyer (editor), Tom Willaert, Jonas Lefevere, and Ike Picone (authors) contributed to a yearlong reflection on the academic community’s approach to ‘truth’. This resulted in a POINcaré edited volume, available as open access here (in Dutch, English translation coming soon). The diverse contributions represent a colourful and varied set of reflections from radically different disciplines and with widely differing interpretations of what truth means. We reflect on What is truth? Who determines what is true and on what grounds? As experts, what role can and should scientists play in all this? Does the digital revolution play a crucial role in our dealings with everything we consider to be true? In a (digital) post-truth era, we stress the continued importance of pursuing truth(s), explaining the process of scientific inquiry and engaging in societal debates. Science is all about uncertainty and we consider this uncertainty a constitutive element in the quest for truth.

Events & Announcements

Upcoming:

  • Freedom not Fear, an annual unconference on privacy and digital rights, will take place in Brussels on 1-4 September. Find the details here.
  • The EDMO BELUX Lunch Lecture series will continue after the summer break. The first confirmed date is 4 September, with the guest speaker Guillaume Kuster who will present us CheckFirst’s extensive investigation on a large-scale Facebook ad scam operation. Sign up here / Save the date and stay tuned for the upcoming editions!
  • The first-ever EU DisinfoLab 2023 Annual Conference outside of Brussels will take place on 11-12 October 2023 in Krakow, Poland. Register and check out the programme here.
  • The EDMO training programme, aimed at supporting different stakeholders in understanding and tackling online disinformation, offers a selection of online and in-person modules covering topics such as media literacy, fact-checking and OSINT, research on disinformation and policy analysis. The list of upcoming training sessions is available here.
  • A new edition of the “Nieuws in de Klas-dag” (News in the Classroom day) will take place on 12 October 2023 in Brussels. This is an absolute must for anyone who wants to support young people in strengthening their skills to deal with news and (dis)information in Flanders. Save the date and stay tuned for the details!
  • From 28 February to 1 March 2024, a conference on the many faces of media literacy will take place in Brussels. This three-day event will be organised in the context of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Save the date(s)!

Past:

  • For the third EDMO BELUX Lunch Lecture on 16 May, titled ‘Truth or trust?’, we had the chance to welcome as our guest speaker Eline Severs, assistant professor at the Department of Political Science, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). You can download the slides of her presentation here.
  • The EDMO Annual Conference 2023 took place in Brussels on 25 May, convening media and policy practitioners, policymakers, academics, regulators, journalists and members of civil society to look at the challenges of online disinformation and how to tackle it. EDMO BELUX had a strong presence at the event, and the work done in within the Belgium-Luxembourg Hub was introduced at a dedicated stand in the lobby area, among other EDMO Hubs. We will also be part of the EDMO Election Taskforce launched during the conference. Read more about it here.
  • On 13 June, Tom Willaert (Vrije Universiteit Brussel / EDMO BELUX), together with Armin Pournaki (ENS, Sciences Po médialab, MPI Leipzig) gave a talk in the context of a joint DE FACTO event at Sciences Po médialab, Paris, on social media disinformation and narratives. The talk focused on questions of sampling and content analysis by discussing a study on Dutch-speaking antagonistic communities on Telegram conducted in the context of the EDMO BELUX project. In particular, the presentation addressed how networks of associated, antagonistic Telegram channels can be identified in an inductive manner, and how we can detect thematic evolutions in the messages that figure in these channels. The second part of the talk delved into the more general question of narratives and how to operationalise the concept to extract narrative traces from text. To this end, an initial methodological approach and tools developed in the EDMO BELUX sister project SoMe4Dem (Horizon Europe Social Media for Democracy) were presented. You can find more information about the talk here.
  • On 20 June, Mediawijs, in the framework of EDMO BELUX, organised Desinforum, a networking event to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the fight against disinformation. Three EDMO BELUX keynote speakers inspired 50 researchers, journalists and media literacy actors from Flanders and French-speaking Belgium. The Flemish Minister of Media, Benjamin Dalle, also presented the new Knowledge Center for Media Research and stressed the collaboration in this field. Read more and find the presentations of the speakers here.
  • On 28 June, in a webinar hosted by EU DisinfoLab, we delved into the varying and unique disinformation landscapes across Europe, with the help of our series of country factsheets, including those of Belgium and Luxembourg. Watch the recording of the webinar here.
  • On 3 July, EU DisinfoLab hosted a webinar ‘Polluting the truth about climate change’. The discussion covered some of the themes introduced in this EDMO BELUX study on the growing disinformation threat against climate change in Belgium, including denialist and conspirative content falsely portraying climate change solutions as restrictions on freedom, and weaponisation of climate change to advance political agendas. The recording of the webinar will be soon online here.

Publications

  • Tuters, M., Willaert, T., Meyer, T. (2023). Real numbers. How science gets drawn into global conspiracy narratives. Issues in Science and Technology, Spring 2023, 32-36. https://doi.org/10.58875/POZR1536
  • Bauwens, J., Ginis, V., Meyer, T., Van Kerkhove, B., Verstrynge, K. (2023). Inleiding. In: J. Bauwens, V. Ginis, T. Meyer, B. Van Kerkhove, K. Verstrynge (eds.) Een vraag naar waarheid. POINcaré series. Brussel: VUBPRESS. (pp15-19). https://www.aspeditions.be/en/book/een-vraag-naar-waarheid/19326
  • Cipers, S., Meyer, T. & Lefevere, J. (2023). Utilitaristische waarheden: hoeveel desinformatie en wantrouwen kan een democratie tolereren? In: J. Bauwens, V. Ginis, T. Meyer, B. Van Kerkhove, K. Verstrynge (eds.) Een vraag naar waarheid. POINcaré series. Brussel: VUBPRESS. (pp.142-147). https://www.aspeditions.be/en/book/een-vraag-naar-waarheid/19326
  • Willaert, T., Picone, I. & Van Raemdonck, N. (2023). Waarheid (waarheden) voorbij factchecking: de ontkrachting van misinformatie levert haar eigen wetenschappelijke beloning op. In: J. Bauwens, V. Ginis, T. Meyer, B. Van Kerkhove, K. Verstrynge (eds.) Een vraag naar waarheid. POINcaré series. Brussel: VUBPRESS. (pp.156-162). https://www.aspeditions.be/en/book/een-vraag-naar-waarheid/19326

Find the latest news and events, as well as research and publications on the EDMO BELUX website!

DisinfoCheck Roundup April 2023

Edito

Welcome to yet another DisinfoCheck Roundup, a newsletter packed with news, fact-checks, and research on disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg.

In this edition, the spotlight is on media literacy. From now on, you can find on our website an overview of the best educational tools from Belgium and Luxembourg that helps teachers, library staff, youth workers, and other educators to make their target group more resilient to disinformation. There is also a new section with insights on media literacy on the website, where we share new or already thoroughly tested experiences and knowledge – matters that we will also discuss at the annual EDMO conference on 25 May.

This newsletter also contains an overview of the most popular fact-checks of the first months of 2023, and we look back at some of our online and offline activities, such as the media literacy training event in French-speaking Belgium, and the first “Lunch Lectures”, a new series of informal meetings about research on disinformation, polarisation and digitisation. The next Lunch Lecture will take place on 16 May.

Enjoy reading!

Bert Pieters, employee disinformation, polarization and online hate at Mediawijs, coordinator of the media literacy activities in EDMO BELUX

Latest EDMO BELUX news

  • To deal with the complex and ever-changing multitude of news and information that comes our way today, we must familiarise ourselves with news, facts, and opinions. EDMO BELUX has put together a repository of tools from Belgium and Luxembourg that can help teachers and other educators to make young people and adults resilient against disinformation. You can find them in English, Dutch and French on the EDMO BELUX website.
  • A new EDMO BELUX & EU DisinfoLab study analyses the flows of climate disinformation in Belgium. Read it here.
  • In March, we kicked off the EDMO BELUX Lunch Lectures, a series of informal gatherings on research topics such as disinformation, hate speech, polarisation, and digitalisation. The first edition, with Grégoire Lits, UCLouvain, tackled measuring and defining informational vulnerability, and the second one, with Brecht Castel, discussed OSINT – you can watch the recordings here and here. Don’t miss the next one on 16 May – register now here!

Our fact-checkers' corner

Since the beginning of our project, our fact-checkers partners, AFP, RTBF and RTL Luxembourg, have published 624 fact-checks across the five languages covered by EDMO BELUX! The massive earthquakes in Turkey and Syria generated a lot of disinformation and related fact checks. The war in Ukraine also remains at the top of the news along with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this section, we highlight the recent top fact-check (in number of views) for each language. Visit our website to discover other fact-checks !

Did you check our top fact-checks?

Fact-checked by AFP (in English):
Video does not show Ukrainian presidential couple singing
Fact-checked by AFP (in French): The International Criminal Court has "admitted" that it cannot judge Vladimir Putin? This is misleading Fact-checked by AFP (in Dutch): Trouw did not write that vaccination is the cause of high excess mortality Fact-checked by AFP (in German): Diets based on blood groups lack any scientific basis Fact-checked by RTL Lëtzebuerg (in Luxembourgish): Will we be eating insects
in the future without knowing it?
Read More Read More Read More Read More Read More

Did you know?

  • A large part of our lives takes place digitally, and that is super handy! But we also have to be careful – just think of hackers who want to steal our data. EDMO BELUX partner Mediawijs, together with imec vzw, Cyber Security Coalition, DNS Belgium, Digital for Youth, brightlab and Center for Cyber Security Belgium, have developed the educational package EDUbox Cybersecurity. With EDUbox, young people learn that they can easily make digital protection a good habit. Available in Dutch and French.
  • Today, algorithms often determine which videos, messages, or accounts we see. CrossOver, a project of EDMO BELUX partner EU DisinfoLab together with Savoir Devenir, Apache, and CheckFirst has developed an educational toolkit to familiarise students with the world of algorithms. Articles, podcasts, quizzes and posters are available in English and Dutch.
  • To map media literacy landscape in Europe, EDMO produces country profiles that offer an overview of media literacy, including details about national policies, key stakeholders, and the status of media literacy in the national curriculum and outside formal education. New countries, including Belgium, have been added to the mapping – take a closer look here!
  • New Guidelines for public interest OSINT investigations were created as part of the European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN) project. These non-binding guidelines provide organisations conducting open-source investigations with the framework comprising good practices and an opportunity to reflect on and potentially refine their methodology, skills, and documentation. Find out more about the OSINT Guidelines – watch a recording of a webinar introducing the Guidelines here!
  • Action Médias Jeunes, a youth organisation for media education aimed at young people in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, has developed a new educational tool for students to develop a critical attitude towards information and to shed light on journalists’ work. Read more here (in French), and download the free tool, “C’est pas sourcé”, here (in French).
  • The Belgium-Netherlands EDMO hub BENEDMO partners cooperated around an investigation on the fake health device Healy, and the sales tactics behind it. This so-called frequency device is marketed with the promise that it helps against numerous medical issues, but the research shows that it does nothing at all. Read more here (in Dutch)!

Events & Announcements

Upcoming:

  • EDMO 2023 Annual Conference  will be organised on 25 May in Brussels.
  • On 13 June, Tom Willaert, VUB, will give a talk in the context of a joint EDMO BELUX De Facto event at SciencesPo médialab, Paris, on ‘narratives and platform affordances’. Save the date!
  • On 29 June, the European Commission and research projects AI4media, AI4Trust, TITAN and vera.ai will organise a one-day conference in Brussels on the future of AI and what it means for countering disinformation. More details and registration coming soon!

Past:

  • EDMO BELUX has already organised two media literacy training events. Take a look and see what was going on in Flanders and in French-speaking Belgium. And get ready for the training event in Luxembourg in June – more details to follow soon!
  • On 28 February, EDMO BELUX and the CrossOver project jointly organised a webinar to present a study of the Belgian media landscape as aggregated by Google News, showing which outlets were promoted when querying a selection of keywords monitored by CrossOver, and which ones were pushed before the eyes of Belgian users. Watch the recording of the webinar here, and read the CrossOver study here.
  • On 15 March, the Engage research lab, together with the team EDMO BELUX, welcomed Alban Tartari, University of Tirana, to give a talk on disinformation production and circulation in the Western Balkans (WB), in a webinar titled Fake News in the Western Balkans: tackling disinformation at the sidelines of the European Union. Check out the presentation slides here.
  • As part of its Wednesday Webinars on Digital & Media Literacy in Europe, Media & Learning organised two webinars to introduce the digital and media literacy work carried out by EDMO hubs and to identify working areas of common interest. Find out more here and here.

Publications

The Propagation of Misinformation in Social Media. A Cross-platform Analysis – A newly published book authored by EDMO BELUX partner Tom Willaert and colleagues (in English).

Find the latest news and events, as well as research and publications on the EDMO BELUX website!

DisinfoCheck Roundup February 2023

Edito

Welcome to the second edition of the EDMO BELUX newsletter, the Disinfocheck Roundup. This newsletter aims to bring together relevant studies, reports and resources about disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg. It is available in all the languages our hub covers (French, Dutch, German, Luxembourgish and English).

2022 was a big year for the members of EDMO BELUX. Our fact-checkers partners have already published more than 400 fact-checks across the five languages we tackle. The research team published its first round of reports along with in-depth investigations, while media literacy experts are working on a repository showcasing media education material and training events. In line with this, we are planning on delivering more content in 2023 hoping that it will foster debates amongst the members of our hub, with other hubs across the EDMO network, and within our larger community.  

In this newsletter, you will find a summary of the latest content available, including the latest EDMO BELUX publication, “The US anti-vax group Children’s Health Defense’s expansion to Europe”. In the “Fact-checkers’ corner”, we showcase false claims of conversions to Islam at the Qatar World Cup, the real story behind the “Twitter files” – as dubbed by Elon Musk-, as well as fact-checks related to the World Economic Forum and the COVID-19 pandemic. In the publication sections, you will find links to the in-depth CrossOver investigation on how Russian narratives get pushed on Twitter whenever the term “nazis” appears on the platform, as well as the links to the executive summaries of EDMO BELUX’s first round of scientific reports. Finally, you will find other announcements and upcoming events. 

We hope you will have a good read.

Victor Wiard, Post-doctoral researcher at the Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles, leading partner on the EDMO BELUX research activities.

Latest EDMO BELUX news

  • The US anti-vax group Children’s Health Defense’s expansion to Europe. This investigation analyses Robert Kennedy Jr’s anti-vax movement Children’s Health Defense efforts to expand its activities in Europe, with Brussels being central to this development.
  • Economic analysis: A framework for measuring news media markets’ financial viability in relation to disinformation – Executive summary of D.3.1.1. This research component aims at monitoring the financial viability of the news media sector in Belgium and Luxembourg, and to produce a monitoring matrix incorporating indicators related to advertising and subscription revenues, (in)direct public support and philanthropy. EDMO BELUX researchers present the conceptual building block of this task.   
  • Quantitative study: Who is susceptible to (political) disinformation? Evidence from Flanders, Belgium – Executive summary of D3.2.1. In this study, EDMO BELUX researchers  investigate patterns of susceptibility to disinformation amongst citizens from Flanders, the largest region of Belgium. First, the study considers to what extent citizens’ socio-demographic characteristics and socio-political attitudes help us understand which citizens are more (or less) likely to believe false claims. Second, the study zooms in on the effect of exposure to disinformation online.
  • Qualitative study: Folk theories of info-democratic disorders in Belgium and Luxembourg – preliminary results from an ongoing qualitative audience study – Executive summary of D3.2.2. In this study, EDMO BELUX researchers provide a preliminary analysis of the folk theories of info-democratic disorders in Belgium and Luxembourg. It focuses on how audiences themselves theorise the nexus between information disorders and democratic disorders and relies on a qualitative methodology based on semi-structured interviews with informants in Belgium and Luxembourg.  
  • Tough luck if you’re in BELUX? Platform responses to disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg.   This article by Samuel Cipers and Trisha Meyer reviews how platforms have taken action to counter online disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg. You can access the article here.
  • What is political? The uncoordinated efforts of social media platforms on political advertising.  This blogpost by Samuel Cipers and Trisha Meyer analyses the initiatives of Meta, Google, TikTok, and Twitter related to political advertising. You can access the blogpost here.  
  • Room for improvement. Analyzing redress policy on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.   This article reviews how users can appeal (in)action taken against content and/or accounts on four major social media platforms. It provides policy advice in the context of the next steps of the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), in particular Article 17 concerning internal complaint handling and redress mechanisms.

Our fact-checkers' corner

Since the beginning of our project, our fact-checkers partners, AFP, RTBF and RTL Luxembourg, have published 474 fact-checks across the five languages covered by EDMO BELUX! 

In this section, we highlight the recent top fact-check (in number of views) for each language. Visit our website to discover other fact-checks!

Did you check our top fact-checks?

NewsLetter - January

Fact-checked by AFP (in English). Old video falsely shared as showing “people converting to Islam at Qatar World Cup”. Fact-checked by RTBF Radio (in French). Twitter Files: what are these "revelations" about the social network relayed by Elon Musk? Fact-checked by AFP (in Dutch). “Died Suddenly” film reinforces misleading Covid-19 vaccine claims. Fact-checked by RTL Lëtzebuerg (in Luxembourgish): The World Economic Forum does not want to kill pets in the fight against climate change. Fact-checked by AFP (in German). Video shows Christmas markets in Kiev of past years, not current ones.
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Did you know?

  • Did you know that our media literacy partners, Mediawijs and Média Animation both have a website with tips for parents about media in the family? Parents will find on those websites information about gaming, cyberbullying, and sexting. And their questions about news and disinformation will get answered. You can find the publication in Dutch and in French.
  • The Flemish ‘News In The Class’ project introduces this year 3 new challenges for classes to spice up the learning about news and disinformation. Prepare your class to become a real journalist or opinion maker in one of three new challenges. There is something for every age: from making your own news items to fact-checking to creating and selling your own opinion.
  • Odysee: list of geo-blocking requests shows the EU and EU Member States are far from doing enough to enforce the law. This analysis, focused on video-sharing platform Odysee, and based on a 3,000+ list of access restrictions, shows that the EU and Member States are far from doing enough, even on possibly illegal content.  
  • The EDMO network expands to all EU Member States through six new hubs. With the six newly established EDMO hubs joining the eight existing ones, the EDMO network will expand its coverage to all 27 EU Member States as well as Norway, in the EEA. The new hubs should be operational by the beginning of 2023.
  • EDMO monthly fact-checking brief. EDMO has published its latest monthly fact-checking brief on 16 January, which focused on Muslim migrants and Ukrainian refugees in the disinformation’s gunsight.
  • Why is “Nazis” regularly trending on Twitter in Belgium. This CrossOver analysis shows how Russian official narratives get pushed whenever “nazis” show up on the social media platform in Belgium.  

Events & Announcements

DisinfoCheck Roundup November 2022

Edito

Welcome to the first edition of the EDMO BELUX newsletter, the DisinfoCheck Roundup. This quarterly newsletter aims to bring together relevant studies, reports and resources about disinformation in Belgium and Luxembourg. It is available in all the languages our hub covers (French, Dutch, German, Luxembourgish and English).

Our countries are still at risk of disinformation. A recent study from the Media Pluralism Monitor classified that Luxembourg was on a high risk of online disinformation. In Belgium, the CrossOver project highlighted how YouTube algorithms were pushing China’s narrative about XinJiang, silencing the nature of atrocities happening there.

Facing this threat, the work of EDMO BELUX is crucial to support initiatives and journalists in exchanging good practices and knowledge about the phenomenon, and the general public to be trained and warned about disinformation spreading.

We envision our work as the work of a community. We look forward to meeting you in Luxembourg at our EDMO BELUX Cross-Community Network Exchange on 25 November. And don’t be shy: send us relevant updates or resources that you think would be helpful for other members of the hub. “Sharing is caring” is definitely one of our mottos.

Trisha Meyer, Professor in Digital Governance and Participation, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Centre on Digitalisation, Democracy and Innovation and principal investigator of the EDMO BELUX project

Latest EDMO BELUX news

  • The disinformative ecosystem: Link sharing practices on Telegram as evidence of cross-platform amplification. On 9 November, we’ve released our latest research that focuses on understanding the information-sharing habits of 30 Dutch-speaking Telegram far-right and conspiracy communities to gain insight into the broader media sphere to which they pertain and on which they feed. Findings show that disinformation is an ecosystem of cross-platform interaction and contamination where mainstream and alternative media coexist. You can find the research here.
  • First EDMO BELUX scientific workshop. EDMO BELUX held its first scientific workshop on the “Insights on the impact of disinformation from multiple perspectives” on 28 October. It was the chance for the hub’s researchers to present their first reports after one year of research. The EDMO BELUX presentations and discussions were preceded by a keynote presentation by Professor Divina Frau-Meigs (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, UNESCO chair Savoir-devenir and President of the Savoir-Devenir association). Event materials, including executive summaries, will shortly be available here.
  • Media Literacy. EDMO Belux’ Media Literacy partners, Mediawijs and Média Animation, participated in the first “Wednesday Webinars on Digital & Media Literacy in Europe”. In their presentation they tried to answer the question “What educational materials do teachers share / want?” You can find the recordings and a short recap here.
  • Room for improvement. Analyzing redress policy on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. This article reviews how users can appeal (in)action taken against content and/or accounts on four major social media platforms. It provides policy advice in the context of the next steps of the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), in particular Article 17 concerning internal complaint handling and redress mechanisms.
  • Disinformation reporting. Have you spotted a case of suspected online disinformation? The rapid alert form is a tool that you can use to report to our EDMO BELUX team any suspected case of disinformation you might have seen online!

Our fact-checkers' corner

Since  the beginning of our project, our fact-checkers partners, AFP, RTBF and RTL Luxembourg, have published 363 fact-checks across the five languages covered by EDMO BELUX!

In this section, we highlight the recent top fact-check (in number of views) for each language. Visit our website to discover the other available fact-checks!

Did you check our top fact-checks?

NewsLetter - November

Fact-Checked by RTL Lëtzebuerg (in English): Fact Check: Do electric cars catch fire more often than combustion engine cars? Fact-Checked by RTL Lëtzebuerg (in Luxembourgish): Does Luxembourg "benefit" from the European budget? Fact-Checked by Clemence OVEREEM, Jan RUSSEZKI, AFP Duitsland (in Dutch): The Ukrainian military has not currently introduced conscription for women Fact-Checked by RTBF (in French): Labello Challenge: the concern around the new TikTok challenge for young people should be put into perspective Fact-Checked by Feliks TODTMANN, AFP Deutschland (in German): Annalena Baerbock did not say that Germany would take in up to ten million refugees from Ukraine
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Did you know?

  • Doppelganger. EU DisinfoLab exposed end of September a Russia-based influence network that has been operating in Europe since at least May 2022. The Doppelganger campaign uses multiple “clones” of authentic media and targets users with fake articles, videos and polls. To do so, the malicious actors behind the operation bought dozens of Internet domain names similar to the ones of authentic media and copied their designs (in English).
  • Disinformation on Donbass is a Google autocomplete away. The recent CrossOver investigation demonstrates how French speaking Belgians were hinted at searching for dubious sources when looking up the word “Donbass” in the Google search bar (in English).
  • Trends Report. The first BENEDMO trends report, based on the outcomes and backgrounds of fact-checks published by the hub’s partners, came out in October, with a focus on the war in Ukraine (in Dutch).
  • Geolocation and fact-checking. A short video prepared by AFP fact-checkers explains how geolocation has been a crucial part of fact-checkers and journalists’ work, and the steps to identify the news location. Learn the basics via this video (in English).
  • How to teach about disinformation? Mediawijs developed this article unveiling 6 tips about how to teach about disinformation. It is supported by this short video (in Dutch with English subtitles).
  • “Happy Birthday for Vladimir Putin from Belgium”. This tweet (in English) looks into the deleted TikTok-video on which a group of Russian speaking people dressed in a military uniform and weapons in hands send their greetings from Belgium to Vladimir Putin for his birthday.

Events & Announcements

Publications

  • Disinformation networks: A quali-quantitative investigation of antagonistic Dutch-speaking Telegram channels. Research conducted by EDMO BELUX partner Tom Willaert and colleagues (in English).
  • Deep State Phobia. Narrative Convergence in Coronavirus Conspiracism on Instagram. Research conducted by M. Tuters & T. Willaert (in English).