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How Big Tech discriminates on misinformation- POLITICO | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp

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It’s a tech-themed Global Insider today, thanks to the insights of POLITICO’s chief technology correspondent Mark Scott. We’ll look at how:

  • In Eastern European countries, Russian state media and disinformation are still all over Facebook.
  • The White House is set to deliver an executive order on a new transatlantic data transfer system later this month. 
  • Congress has virtually no chance of passing digital legislation ahead of November elections. 

SO, WHAT’S THE RUSSIA DISINFORMATION DEAL: In Kremlin-friendly Hungary, war documentaries made by state-owned (and supposedly banned) media outlets RT and Russia-1 are being shared widely in local Facebook groups, according to Szilvi Német from Hungarian fact-checking organization Lakmusz. In Poland, Russian false narratives portraying Ukrainian refugees as criminals and the West’s faltering support for Warsaw popped up repeatedly on Facebook when I searched CrowdTangle, the social media analytics firm owned by Meta.

In Bulgaria, the country’s digital ministry told POLITICO that Facebook posts have been shared hundreds of thousands of times comparing Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Adolf Hitler; accusing Ukrainian refugees of beating up locals; and repeating claims the United States is using Ukraine as a proxy to attack Russia. Many of these posts were flagged to Facebook as potential disinformation. As of June 1, none had been taken down.

“Disinformation is a systemic risk for Bulgaria,” said Bozhidar Bozhanov, the country’s minister of electronic governance, extending all the way to the minister’s own Facebook feed, he said.

East-West divide: In the U.S. and other populous Western countries, a combination of sophisticated machine-learning content algorithms and the increased scrutiny from politicians has seen scores of such material scrubbed off Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The companies have been eager to publicly show how — given the unfolding war — they are doing their part to stop these narratives from spreading.

Yet in smaller countries, particularly in places whose populations may be more favorable to Russian President Vladimir Putin, that same level of attention is sorely lacking. Bozhanov, the Bulgarian minister, said his repeated discussions with Facebook about Russian disinformation had left him frustrated with how the company was handling the problem based on his calls and detailed letters. In response, Meta said it was investigating scores of links related to Facebook posts from Russian state media and disinformation associated with the Kremlin that Mark Scott sent them after scouring content from across Eastern Europe.

To tackle Russian disinformation, serious investments in content moderation should not be available only to the U.S. and parts of Western Europe. Smaller countries, too, must receive similar levels of resources, in terms of human moderators, functioning automated content systems and access to social media executives who are willing to treat requests/complaints from the likes of Bulgaria in the same way they respond to similar issues flagged in the U.S.


The White House’s long-awaited plan for ensuring Europeans will have greater legal rights to complain about how U.S. companies handle their data when its transferred across the Atlantic is expected this month, according to three people with direct knowledge of those discussions. That will kick off another six-month process in which the European Commission will transfer those changes into EU law — and that in turn will probably spark a legal challenge that ends up before the EU’s highest court.

Expect specific details on the “necessary and proportionate” limits for how U.S. national security agencies can access both European and American data. That would be a big shift for the U.S. government that, until very recently, would have preferred to have unfettered access.

The last-minute haggling on these details is why we still haven’t had the executive order despite President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announcing a data transfers political agreement in March.

The U.S. intelligence community now understands it will need to be more circumspect with how it collects people’s data, but it’s easier to agree to the principle than to codify the practice of limiting intelligence agency data collection. The final result will not be the win that many privacy campaigners want — but it will be an admission that Edward Snowden revealed data-gathering excesses that still plague many of these agencies.

The political value of the executive order will lie in giving the EU executive the legal firepower it needs to ward off court challenges. If the U.S. government outlines, in concrete language, what its limits to data access are, then it will be harder for Europe’s highest court to determine that the new pact falls foul of the 27-country bloc’s fundamental right to privacy.

Geopolitics angle: Since Europe’s top court in 2015 invalidated the first transatlantic data pact, U.S. officials have asserted that Washington’s access to EU data is treated differently compared with how national European governments similarly collect information on EU citizens. That’s true.

And so by outlining, for the first time, what the “necessary and proportionate” limits are to U.S. data collection, Washington will also be shining a flashlight on the data-collection practices of European national security agencies which are often not living up to the standards expected in the executive order. The question will become: If American spies are willing to agree to such limits, why can’t European spies do the same?



Tyson Barker, a former U.S. State Department official who now runs the technology and global affairs program at the German Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin-based think tank, talked to Mark Scott about the competing dynamics.

“The U.S. is just full of Pacific romantics, and so is the White House … but pesky Europe keeps getting in the way.” Barker thinks it will soon be the Quad’s turn to be pesky: “At some point, there’s going to be a lot of tension around the India-Russia trade relationship … .”

“The traffic from undersea cables between the U.S. and Europe is 55 percent higher than traffic between the U.S. and the Indo-Pacific. The stock of that relationship is something that is completely underappreciated by the national security crowd.”

“Washington’s approach to Europe is Republicans are hostile and Democrats are indifferent. The reason is because [of] the way the U.S. sees the world. Sure, Ukraine and Russia, that’s an acute challenge. But the chronic challenge remains China.”

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