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EU Elections Disinfo Bulletin

EU Elections Disinfo Bulletin

Stay informed and ahead of disinformation threats with the daily newsletter from the EDMO Task Force on 2024 European Elections. Subscribe here.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🚶 Disinformation stories and narratives about migrants circulating in the weeks ahead of the June vote. Although not the most prominent in numbers, disinformation about migration is a constant phenomenon also observed during the EU elections campaign, especially in countries more exposed to migratory paths. In Spain and Italy, for example, migrants are constantly targeted by false stories portraying them as violent or criminal and opposed to the Western way of living, and sometimes urging for “massive deportations”. At the same time, disinformation content often suggests that these groups of people, as migrants, are entitled to various benefits, while EU institutions are described as willing to permit uncontrolled immigration, with the apparent goal to politically capitalize on the xenophobic messages spread by false narratives.

To this end, false stories exaggerating the anti-immigration sentiment are also significant. This recently happened in Ireland, in the context of a wave of protests against the housing of asylum seekers, with false stories exaggerating the scale of the rallies and exploiting social tensions around the issue. But this is not the only recent case, as the point below further shows.

👨🏼‍💼 🇵🇱 An example of how these narratives are used to target the government in Poland, one of the most sensitive countries to the issue of migration. Polish PM Donald Tusk pledged an investment of 10 billion złotys (€2.3 billion) to enhance security at the border between Poland and Belarus. For years the issue of migration has held the center stage of Polish political consciousness, and battles between Minsk and Warsaw over the flow of migrants across the border have in turn led to a disinformation storm. Far-right groups in Poland are contributing to the spreading of pro-Kremlin, anti-migrant disinformation, and recently Donald Tusk has been targeted by disinformation alleging his approval of the new EU Pact on migration, while Polish legislation is generally restrictive towards new migrants. In such a context, attempts to frame Tusk as soft on migration are meant to discredit him with voters and influence public opinion ahead of the elections.

📱 🇮🇪 Anonymous accounts on X target Irish politics. An investigation published on May 27 by The Journal FactCheck, a fact-checking organization part of the EDMO network, reveals how over 150 anonymous social media accounts on X, posing as Irish users, are targeting politicians, journalists, and news outlets with extreme views. These accounts, potentially part of an influence operation, are spreading divisive content on topics like immigration, LGBTQ+ issues, and the Ukraine war ahead of the European and local elections in June.

The accounts often exhibit signs of being operated by non-Irish users and have been linked to similar tactics seen globally, raising concerns about foreign interference in Ireland’s political discourse at such a crucial moment. Read the full investigation here: The disinfluencers: How over 150 anonymous ‘Irish’ accounts are swamping X with extreme views

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🗳️ 🇩🇪 Disinformation about the electoral process persists in Germany. A recent false claim in the country suggests that the vote count for the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) will follow stricter rules and will be invalidated if the mark on the ballot crosses a designated circle on the ballot paper. In fact, according to the Federal Returning Office, such restrictions do not exist and the only condition for a valid vote is that the mark on the ballot clearly indicates the will of the voter.

This unproven claim has been circulating for years and it is consistent with false stories recently identified in the country questioning the fairness of the EU election process, already reported in previous issues of this newsletter.

🏳️‍🌈 Recognizing LGBTQ+ rights: somewhere denied, somewhere not needed, according to disinformation. As Pride Month approaches, as well as the elections, disinformation content about LGBTQ+ issues may increase in the coming weeks. In recent days, a couple of false stories circulated, trying with different arguments to undermine support for this minority. In Spain, for example, an old and modified video has been used to suggest that legislation to assure LGBTQ+ rights is unnecessary, since homosexuals would not be discriminated against. In Poland, on the contrary, a post on X impersonating a member of the Parliament announced the alleged banning of LGBTQ+ communities and organizations.

🤖 AI disinforms better than humans. Research published in mid-2023 on the academic journal Science shows how disinformation content generated by Large Language Models, such as GPT-3, is more convincing and harder to distinguish from human-written disinformation content. The study involved 697 participants evaluating tweets on various topics, including vaccines and COVID-19. The results revealed that GPT-3-generated disinformation was perceived as accurate more frequently than human-generated disinformation. Furthermore, participants struggled to differentiate between AI-generated and human-generated tweets.

The study also explored the so-called “resignation theory”, where people feel powerless against mis/disinformation, potentially leading to decreased trust in information and increased spread of false content, as individuals may stop trying to discern truth from falsehood. Read the full study here: AI model GPT-3 (dis)informs us better than humans.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇪🇺 🍌 False stories portraying EU membership as disadvantageous. In recent days, false stories – of a kind already flagged in this bulletin – about the EU imposing totally unfair economic conditions and unreasonable bureaucracy on its member countries has been recirculated in various countries. Among the claims that have been proven false are that the introduction of the euro in Croatia led to a doubling of prices, that the European digital identity will discriminate against citizens, and that the European Central Bank is planning to introduce the Digital Euro for surveillance purposes.

False stories also claimed that the EU even imposes the degree of curvature of bananas (in fact, it was a legislation proposed by trade associations), while Brussels is described as a city with an overwhelming majority of migrants from outside the EU.

🇪🇸 🇦🇷 Disinformation after the visit of Argentine President Javier Milei to Spain. While attending a recent far-right rally in Spain, Argentine president Javier Milei made comments about Begoña Gómez, the wife of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, sparking a diplomatic clash. Milei insinuated that Gómez was “corrupt”, after allegations about Gómez’s alleged ties to private companies receiving public contracts and funds. These allegations also originated a wave of false stories in late April targeting Gomez and Sánchez’s decision to suspend his duties.

Last week, after the diplomatic incident caused by Miley’s words, a new stream of disinformation targeted the issue and Prime Minister Sánchez in particular. In addition to exaggerating Milei’s remarks, false stories claimed ongoing protests against Sánchez and rallies in support of Milei. Exploiting diplomatic tensions, a fake post on X from Sánchez defending his wife and a fake article about their separation were also circulated online.

💪 Strong European sentiment across the continent. 74% of Europeans feel they are EU citizens, according to the latest Standard Eurobarometer survey. The survey also reveals that 77% of European citizens support a common EU defense and security policy, while 71% believe in enhancing the EU’s military equipment production capacity. Additionally, 69% favor a unified foreign policy among member states. About Ukraine, 87% of EU citizens back humanitarian aid, 83% support welcoming refugees, and 72% approve of economic sanctions on Russia. Read more here: Standard Eurobarometer 101 – Spring 2024.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇸🇰 🎥The false theories that the attempted assassination of Slovak PM Robert Fico is staged. Demagog.sk, a Slovak fact-checking organization part of the EDMO network, reports that in Slovakia several false claims are circulating about the shooting against PM Fico being staged. These allegations question the official version citing alleged inconsistencies, such as the absence of visible blood in the video, suggesting the use of blanks, and asserting that external groups orchestrated the attack. Demagog.sk has debunked these theories by providing expert insights and verifying facts, including the authenticity of the shooting, the validity of the rescue procedures, and the presence of videos from multiple angles capturing the event.

Regarding the other false claims circulating on the issue, the most widespread so far appears to be the one about the wife of the shooter being Ukrainian or somehow tied to Ukraine, a false story pushed by Russian propaganda using tactics similar to those used last February in the case of the dissident Alexei Navalny’s death. This disinformation content has already been identified in: SK, ES, EL, IE, IT, BG, PL, CZ, LT, as well as outside the EU borders.

🇩🇪 🤼 False stories in Germany directly attacking political parties. Recently, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) has been the target of false stories suggesting its alleged offensive rhetoric or even Nazi sympathies. For example, a card with a quote from Kevin Kühnert, the General Secretary of the party, talking about “fighting right-wing extremists” was doctored to suggest that he had said “right-wing sexists”, implying that he had offended all conservative politicians or voters. Another out-of-context and falsified image was re-shared as showing an SPD campaign poster inspired by the Nazi flag, in an attempt to link the party to Nazism.

Similar rhetoric has been used in recent months in disinformation content targeting several other German and European politicians as well as NATO, with disinformation content suggesting that its headquarters are inspired by the SS symbol.

🎯 Check out the latest issue of the EDMO Weekly Insights and Early Warnings ahead of the June elections. This week’s edition looks at disinformation narratives about major current events, such as the Fico shooting or the death of the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi. It also includes early warnings on what kind of disinformation to expect, e.g. after some EU member countries announced they will recognize the Palestinian State, the ICC prosecutor requested the arrest of Netanyahu and Hamas leaders, and Ukrainian president Zelensky urged NATO to do more in defending his country. Read the full text here: WEEKLY INSIGHTS and EARLY WARNINGS, n. 7.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇮🇷 False stories about international reactions to the death of the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi. Adding to the conspiracy theories circulating on the issue, including one suggesting that Raisi is actually alive, false stories about the Iranian president’s death also concern alleged grief or celebration expressed by international figures after the crash of his helicopter. In Spain, a false story is circulating that Putin personally traveled to Iran to attend Raisi’s funeral, while a doctored video circulating in the country purports to show the Israeli ambassador to the UN celebrating Raisi’s death.

🗳️ 🇩🇪 False information about the EU electoral process pushing citizens to invalidate their vote in Germany. Following the already mentioned false story that EU ballots are invalid – allegedly because of holes and cut corners, which actually facilitate citizens with disabilities to vote – other false stories circulating in Germany concern the EU electoral process. On TikTik and X, posts are suggesting that multiple voting and multiple marks on the ballots are allowed or asking citizens to sign the ballot to prevent voter fraud. In fact, these false claims are trying to induce citizens to invalidate their legitimate choices, since both of these practices make the votes invalid.

☦️ 🇷🇺 How the Kremlin weaponizes religion within EU borders. Greece Fact Check, an organization part of the EDMO fact-checking network, published last week an analysis of how the Kremlin leverages religion for propaganda and disinformation about the war against Ukraine in Greece.

By framing the Ukraine conflict as a holy war, Russian state media and officials manipulate religious sentiments to garner support and justify their actions. This strategy is particularly effective in Greece, where disinformation leverages religious connections to sow discord, foster pro-Russian and anti-Western sentiment (for example, by playing on prejudices around LGBTQ+ issues), and undermine support for Ukraine, demonstrating a sophisticated use of cultural ties to achieve geopolitical goals. Read the full analysis here: Ελληνορωσική φιλία και εργαλειοποίηση της θρησκείας: Μύθοι, προπαγάνδα και παραπληροφόρηση (in Greek).

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇮🇷 🚁 Conspiracies about the helicopter crash that led to the death of Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi. A few hours later the news of Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash, unproven information started circulating in various European countries. False claims used images purporting to show the helicopter the Iran president was traveling on. A significant false claim has been tracked in Poland linking what so far is described by most media as an incident with alleged US actions, part of a conspiracy that also suggests US responsibilities in the attempted assassination of the Slovak PM Robert Fico – alleging a coordinated effort by the US to eliminate leaders opposing its hegemony. Such claims are unproven and official sources have not reported any evidence of sabotage.

🎤 🏳️‍🌈 False stories steering hate against LGBTQ+ community. In recent days, in Italy, a false claim stated that the colorful rainbow flag was chosen by the LGBTQ+ community to attract children, consistent with the disinformation narrative that tries to link LGBTQ+ people to pedophilia.

Other recent unfounded claims leveraging anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment have exploited the media attention on the Eurovision Song Contest. For example, a false story compared an alleged photo of the winners of Eurovision 2024 to one of the 1974 winners, ABBA. The alleged photo of the 2024 winners was actually AI-generated to portray the song contest as decadent and corrupt. In addition, the actual winner, who identifies as non-binary, was falsely accused of wearing Satanic symbols.

🔍 🇪🇸 🇵🇹 Needs and challenges for Iberian fact-checkers. A recent IBERIFIER report presents an in-depth investigation into the current state of fact-checkers in Spain and Portugal, highlighting their training and technological needs. Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, the findings reveal a significant interest in AI and OSINT, with 76% of fact-checkers eager to integrate AI into their workflows. The report underscores the necessity for specialized tools for social network analysis, web scraping, and advanced video editing to enhance fact-checking efficiency and accuracy. Read the full report here: IBERIFIER Reports – Needs and challenges for Iberian fact-checkers.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇪🇺 💉 Disinformation about vaccines and the EU. Aside from the disinformation narratives about the pandemic, still circulating in the infosphere as already mentioned in this newsletter, a new wave of false stories surged after AstraZeneca withdrew its vaccine from the market. The main reason cited for the withdrawal was competition from more effective vaccines, but false stories claim that the European Medicines Agency had actually unilaterally banned AstraZeneca’s vaccine because shots were allegedly dangerous or could cause deathside effects and serious illness.

Recently, other stories verified as false by independent fact-checking organizations also alleged a deeper involvement of the EU in alleged manipulations about vaccines. False stories circulated in recent days suggest, for example, that the EU Parliament censors discussions about vaccination or that a vaccination certificate will be required to vote in the upcoming EU elections.

⚖️ Early Warning – ICC warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas leaders. The International Criminal Court prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes is expected to spark significant disinformation. Since the war in the Middle East is one of the most polarizing issues of the international debate, this news is likely to fuel false narratives and misleading content, potentially exacerbating tensions and divisions within Europe and globally. Disinformation could exploit this situation to further polarize opinions.

False narratives could include exaggerations of the ICC’s findings, false claims of international conspiracies or the demonization of the two sides in the war (as it happened in the first phase of the conflict). The legality and implications of the ICC’s decisions could also be targeted.

🌍 The EDMO monthly brief on disinformation detected in April is out. According to information provided by 36 fact-checking organizations that contributed to this edition, the main topics of disinformation in April were the EU (11% of the total detected disinformation items, the highest value since the dedicated monitoring began), climate change (11%), Ukraine (10%) and the conflict in the Middle East (10%).

The main disinformation phenomenon detected during last month was the rise of disinformation about the EU, e.g.:

  • False stories about the alleged direct involvement of EU countries in ground operations in Ukraine or the escalation of the war;
  • Misleading information and conspiracies about EU policies and laws, especially those aimed at countering the effects of climate change.

You can read the full brief here: Monthly brief no. 35 – EDMO fact-checking network

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇸🇰 Disinformation about Fico’s shooting in Slovakia grows. After accusing the main opposition party of endorsing the attempted killing, false stories about the attack on PM Robert Fico continue to grow in Slovakia. In recent days, unproven claims have been made that the shooter is tied to the Progressive Slovakia party (linking him also to the EU and the LGBTQ+ movement), that he is a former member of the communist state’s intelligence service, or suggested that his violent act was concerted with other people, rather than the violence of a “lone wolf”, as local authorities currently described him.

At the same time, the attacker’s wife was said to be a Ukrainian refugee, even if police denied her alleged Ukrainian origin at a press conference. Aside from these false stories, observers say that the already toxic Slovakian political climate has worsened after the assassination attempt.

🇮🇷 🛩️ Early warning – Iranian President Raisi’s helicopter crash. Following the reported death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 20, disinformation is likely to exploit this event. False narratives may emerge, connecting the crash to the broader Middle Eastern conflict without proof, inciting fears of escalation and fostering conspiracy theories. Preliminary findings from the EDMO Monthly Brief, which will be published tomorrow, show that disinformation regarding the crisis in the region tripled in April, mainly due to false stories exaggerating the scale of the attacks exchanged between Israel and Iran itself. This incident could further fuel the dissemination of misleading content.

🇵🇱 🚓 🔥 The false story that Germany is occupying Poland. After the already flagged false story alleging that Polish authorities were conceding lands to Germany, another false claim in Poland suggests similar attempts by the German neighbors. Recently, a photo of a “German police car” (in fact, part of a joint German-Polish police unit) circulated along with claims saying that “the German occupation has returned” or “German police are officially maintaining order” in Poland.

At the same time, other disinformation content circulated in the country in recent days alleged that “the European Commission confirmed that the Polish government established the superiority of EU law over Polish law”, so that “Poland will no longer exist”. Other unproven claims even suggested that recent fires in the country were deliberately started to distract attention from these issues.

🔎🇪🇺 V4 citizens’ concerns about election interference. More than 1/3 of the population of all the four Visegrad Group countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary) consider attempts by foreign actors to influence European elections a major issue, according to CEDMO’s latest brief. Czech respondents showed the highest concern, reflecting lower institutional trust compared to other European nations. Poles expressed the highest intent to vote, with 78% planning to participate in the upcoming elections. Read more in this CEDMO’s special brief: More than a third of the citizens of the V4 countries perceive foreign attempts to influence European elections as a big problem.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇸🇰 The May 15 assassination attempt on Slovak PM Robert Fico has already created a storm of dangerous, false narratives. One of the first to circulate was a fake image of the shooter portrayed as interacting with Martin Šimečka, journalist and father of the co-founder of Slovakia’s main opposition party. This was quickly exposed as false information and flagged as such by Meta. But another debunked false story has already emerged in the country, claiming that the main opposition party endorses the violent act, instead of condemning it. However, these are not the only unfounded claims circulating about the tragic event.

In other EU countries – aside from the false story alleging his death – fact-checking organizations are reporting a surge of anti-vaccines, anti-Ukrainian, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the attempted assassination. Some unproven claims allege that Ukrainian intelligence services are behind the shooting, while others suggest motives tied to the WHO pandemic treaty or to George Soros. Alex Jones, a well-known conspiracist, shared a post on X soon after the shooting suggesting that NATO wants Fico’s death, another of the false narratives circulating on social media.

Accounts dedicated to debunking disinformation have issued alerts regarding the potential impact of the dissemination of such disinformation on the already bitterly divided Slovak political landscape. The Slovak interior minister, Matus Sutaj Estok, stated: “We are on the doorstep of a civil war. The assassination attempt on the prime minister is a confirmation of that”, adding “Many of you sowed hatred, and it turned into a storm”, addressing the media and “hate-mongers” on social media.

🕵🏻‍♂️🧑🏻‍💻Two Moldovan brothers appear to be helping Russia to carry on cyberwarfare into Europe. 
On Thursday, an investigation by Correctiv – a German investigative and fact-checking organization part of the EDMO network – reported that two brothers from Moldova are providing IT infrastructure to support Russian cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns across Europe. Despite EU sanctions, their company, PQ Hosting, enables Russian hackers and propagandists to operate through EU-based servers, hiding their activities through complex corporate structures and shell companies, Correctiv reports. Read the full investigation here: Hacks und Propaganda: Zwei Brüder aus Moldau tragen Russlands digitalen Krieg nach Europa (in German).

🔦💸 Massive scam campaign on X exposed. Maldita.es, a Spanish fact-checking organization also part of the EDMO network, published an in-depth investigation on Thursday into a massive crypto scam promotion campaign that used X ads and blue checks to impersonate celebrities and media outlets. The research reveals that scammers garnered 76 million impressions on X from 165 paid ads in less than three months, reaching 38 million users. These ads likely violated Spanish law and X policies and employed cloaking techniques. Additionally, for 6 out of 10 posts, X’s DSA ads repository lacked the necessary information, and “X could be breaching its obligations under the Digital Services Act (DSA)”, the report says. Read a summary in English or the full report (in Spanish) here: 76 million attempts to scam you on X, using celebrities.

🎯 Check out the latest issue of the EDMO Weekly Insights and Early Warnings ahead of the June elections. This week’s edition looks at several disinformation narratives, encompassing the alleged direct involvement of the EU in Ukraine, the pandemic, and narratives pushing xenophobia and Islamophobia. It also includes early warnings on what kind of disinformation to expect after the attempted assassination of Slovak PM Rober Fico, controversies about flags at the Eurovision Song Contest, and the disinformation about electoral integrity in the EU. Read the full text here: WEEKLY INSIGHTS and EARLY WARNINGS, n. 6.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇸🇰 Early warning – Robert Fico shooting. Following the shooting of Slovak prime minister Robert Fico, on May 15, it is very likely that disinformation will try to exploit the situation to convey different messages. Disinformation could have both a national and European dimension, connecting the attempted assassination to domestic elements or to international events. Considering the strong political polarization existing in Slovakia, disinformation will likely try to deepen and enlarge the divisions in the Slovakian society ahead of the EU elections and after. False news connecting the shooter with the opposition party, Progressive Slovakia, are already circulating online.

🗳️ 🇪🇺 The false story that the ballots for the EU elections are invalid. In Germany, a message spread on Telegram in early May claimed that ballots with holes or corners cut are invalid “since the beginning”, suggesting that the elections are useless or that the results will be tampered. In fact, these modifications, required by electoral regulations, help blind and visually impaired citizens to vote independently using special templates. The false claim used old and unrelated photos.

It is the first case of such disinformation directly regarding the EU elections detected by our network, but false stories about the electoral process have been the most common disinformation affecting national elections held in Europe in 2023, suggesting, for example, voter fraud, vote rigging, and vote tampering. This narrative included all sorts of false stories about voting procedures, and it is possible that it reemerges consistently as the EU elections get closer. Read here the report of the EDMO Task Force dedicated to the analysis of disinformation narratives identified during the 2023 EU elections in Council of Europe member states: Disinformation narratives during the 2023 elections in Europe.

⛓️ Other false stories that portray the EU as corrupted. The false story about the ballots came after other recent claims seeking to portray European institutions and procedures as unreasonable and dishonest. In Portugal, for example, a doctored image was circulated purporting to show Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commission president, being arrested in the European Parliament. In Hungary, the photo of an information panel on a public toilet – explaining it was built thanks to EU funds – was circulated claiming that the toilet itself cost 268 million Hungarian forints to build (in fact, the cost of the whole project), suggesting that money was being stolen or that EU procedures are absurd.

📊 🇪🇸 🇵🇹 Systematic analysis of disinformation in Spain and Portugal. IBERIFIER, the Edmo regional Hub covering the Iberian peninsula, issued a report exploring the spread and evolution of disinformation in Spain and Portugal, covering consumption forms, platforms, and narratives over four years. Findings show low levels of trust in the news in Spain, compared to Portugal’s higher trust levels. It is an analytical framework considering the wider societal impact of said phenomena at a social, cultural, political, geopolitical, and economic level, considering similarities and differences between the two countries. Read more here: Disinformation consumption patterns in Spain and Portugal.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

What is a “disinformation narrative”? Please find here a short methodological note about the definition used by the EDMO fact-checking network.

The Disinfo Bulletin gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations.

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇪🇺 📈 In April, EU-related disinformation reached its highest level since EDMO’s dedicated monitoring began. According to preliminary findings of the new EDMO Brief, which will be published by the end of the week, disinformation on EU policies or targeting its institutions amounted to 11% of the total detected disinformation. The share is the highest percentage in April among the topics constantly monitored by EDMO, and the highest value for EU-related disinformation since our dedicated monitoring began in May 2023.

🕵🏻‍♂️ 💣 Espionage and bomb threats in Central Europe. Central European countries, particularly Poland and Slovakia, faced intensified threats last week. Poland reported a bugged cabinet meeting room. Though it is unclear exactly who planted the devices, or how long they have been there, these discoveries follow the uncovering of a suspected Russian spy network in March, and reportedly Russian cyber-attacks against Polish government networks in the first week of May.

At the same time, Slovakia experienced a wave of 1,000 bomb threats from a Russian email address, targeting schools, banks, and electrical stores, with the sender labeling these entities as “enemies of Islam”. Slovak police are treating this as a terrorist act, which has caused significant psychological distress to the population.

📊🇪🇺 Eurostat data service launched for European Elections. Eurostat has introduced a temporary data and fact-checking service to assist media and fact-checkers with European Union statistics and data inquiries, which will be operational until June 15, 2024. The service, which prioritizes election-related requests, promises to respond as quickly as possible and provide useful data within its databases in just one hour (but complex queries could take longer). Read more here: Eurostat launches data and fact-checking service for the European elections.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

Please find here a short methodological explanation about the “disinformation narrative” definition that the EDMO fact-checking network uses.

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🗳️ 🇪🇸 Disinformation about the electoral process in the Catalan elections. On May 12, Catalonia held regional elections. Even before the voting was completed, false allegations of electoral fraud were circulated, alleging unfair practices in the voting process, as happened in all national elections examined in the Report on disinformation narratives during the 2023 elections in Europethe first output of the EDMO Task Force on EU Elections.

In the case of the Catalan elections, false stories claim that certain candidates had offered money for votes, or that a railway breakdown in the region was due to sabotage to prevent trains from leaving and people from voting. Such a theory has been denied by local authorities, but it is similar to a false story circulated in the context of the Spanish national elections in the summer of 2023.

🚩 EDMO has flagged to X an account known for spreading disinformation. Following articles and reports of several fact-checking organizations within its fact-checking network, EDMO has formally flagged an X account named RadioGenoa to the platform, for spreading disinformation, mainly about migrants and other minorities. The RadioGenoa account has recently been the subject of a dedicated investigation by VRTNWS, and EDMO provided dozens of additional links to debunked content. Representatives of X welcomed the initiative and, after a week, provided some information about actions taken. EDMO thinks that those actions fell short of its expectations, among other reasons because they focused on some specific tweets provided as examples, and not on the account itself. The interlocution, however, is ongoing and EDMO will continue to monitor the evolution of the situation in the next stages.

🏃🏼‍♂️‍➡️ 🇪🇺 BENEDMO launches a Fact Checking marathon for the EU elections. The initiative of the EDMO hub in Belgium and the Netherlands plans to bring together eight journalistic organizations for a fact-checking marathon in the run-up to the European elections. For ten days, a group of twenty fact-checkers will check politicians’ claims full-time, using different formats such as articles, videos and podcasts to ensure wide accessibility and impact. Dutch, Flemish and French-speaking media are working together for the marathon.

The diverse coalition – which includes public, private and academic sectors – will operate from May 27 to June 9. Read more here: VRT NWS bundelt krachten met andere redacties voor factcheckmarathon in aanloop naar verkiezingen (in Dutch).

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇪🇺 🗞️ Special edition! What are the activities of EDMO beyond the Disinfo Bulletin one month before the vote? As you know, since you receive this newsletter daily, the EDMO Task Force on European Elections has launched it to report on major disinformation incidents and narratives detected ahead of the vote in June. But there are other efforts that the EDMO community is making to counter disinformation and inform the public in the context of the upcoming elections. Here are the other running initiatives…

🚨 Weekly Insights and Early Warnings. A publication analyzing disinformation narratives and trends linked to the EU elections (at national, regional, or European level) every week until the elections. The format also includes short textual early warnings about news and events potentially triggering disinformation in the run-up to the EU elections. The assessments contained in the first issues often succeeded in anticipating the development of disinformation narratives, as in the case of the foreseen amplification of the false narrative suggesting the direct involvement of EU countries in ground operations in Ukraine after the approval from the US Senate of a new military aid package to the invaded nation. Read all the issues here: Weekly Insights and Early Warnings.

🗂️ Public reporting. Reports and analyses on disinformation in general or specific techniques and narratives. For example, the first output of the TF was a report on Disinformation narratives during the 2023 elections in Europe, while a specific analysis was dedicated to Prebunking AI-generated disinformation ahead of EU elections.

📊 Monthly Fact-Checking Briefs. Thanks to the contributions of the over 50 organizations within its fact-checking network, EDMO provides a brief overview of the major disinformation narratives circulating in the EU each month. Read all the issues here: EDMO Fact-Checking Briefs.

🕵️ Investigations. Collaborative investigations are regularly produced as a result of joint analysis by members of the EDMO fact-checking network, providing insights on specific topics most targeted by disinformation. About the upcoming European elections, EDMO recently published a detailed investigation into the reach and impact of an extensive Russian disinformation campaign, conducted through a Russian network of copycat websites called “Pravda”: Russian disinformation network “Pravda” grew bigger in the EU, even after its uncovering. Read all the others here: EDMO Investigations.

📚 Media literacy campaign. Additionally, thanks to the cooperative efforts of its 14 national or regional hubs covering the whole EU territory, EDMO is running the Be Election Smart Campaign, a media literacy campaign sharing tips to support citizens in finding reliable election information and recognizing false or manipulative content ahead of the 2024 European Parliament Elections.

🗓️ The EDMO Week starts today. A series of events, meetings, discussions, and workshops are planned for this week in Brussels, involving the EDMO community at large, its national hubs, and the fact-checking network. Read more here: EDMO annual conference.

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This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇪🇺 🗳️ Special edition! What kind of disinformation is targeting the EU one month before the vote? 

Disinformation about the EU has been constantly monitored by EDMO since May 2023, when it started its dedicated monitoring efforts in its monthly briefs. As often highlighted, the main false narrative targeting the EU describes its institutions as authoritarian or corrupt, aiming to impose dangerous measures or unreasonable bureaucratic burdens on citizens’ lives. But what kind of false narratives are targeting the EU a few weeks before the European Parliament elections of June 6-9?

In recent weeks, several false claims have spread unfounded or misleading information about European policies. In fact, except for trivial conspiracies, the most insidious false messages about the EU try to exaggerate the actual scope or distort the true objectives of its laws. The false claims range from highly defamatory ones – such as that the European Digital Identity Wallet is a tool imposed to control bank deposits or that the approval of edible insects for human consumption is a way to force citizens to eat food containing insects – to less serious but equally significant false stories. For example, the EU supposedly plans to severely restrict cash payments or ban air in potato chip packages.

🔖 🌍 In this context, one of the key issues targeted by disinformers is the legislation aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. The Green Deal legislation has been a major target of disinformation for a very long time, with false narratives recently leveraging anti-EU sentiment surrounding the farmers’ protests. The most insidious false stories seek to instill fear about crucial issues in people’s lives. For example, falsely claiming that the EU wants to ban agriculture or that it will allow the member states to expropriate private homes and cars (or ban their repair), if they do not meet certain criteria. This kind of rhetoric is also being used by some politicians and in political manifestos in the run-up to EU elections.

At the same time, EU institutions are also claimed to blackmail member states to force some decisions, and in case of huge investments – such as  NextGenerationEU – false claims allege they are hiding frauds for citizens. In Poland, for example, it was recently claimed that the money the country received for the recovery plan must be paid back at inflated exchange rates. Other false stories affect civil rights, while recently the false story has repeatedly emerged that the EU is planning to reintroduce the death penalty.

🎯 Check out the latest issue of the EDMO Weekly Insights and Early Warnings ahead of the June elections. This week’s edition looks at disinformation portraying the alleged willingness of the EU to oppose agriculture and the rise in Islamophobic rhetoric. It also includes early warnings on what kind of disinformation to expect ahead of the recent developments in EU support for Ukraine and the withdrawal of AstraZeneca’s anti-Covid vaccine from the European market. Read the full text here: WEEKLY INSIGHTS and EARLY WARNINGS, n. 5.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

 💉 Disinformation about the pandemic regains traction. Among the already signaled disinformation narratives about Covid-19 and vaccines, long-standing false narratives resurfaced in the last few days. In various countries, false claims are circulating that the UN warned of the arrival of a new pandemic, that anti-COVID vaccines were released before the disease broke out, or that some countries are withdrawing from the WHO. In Italy, it was claimed on May 4 that the EU Commission had revoked AstraZeneca’s authorization to market its vaccine.

On May 8 AstraZeneca then announced the actual withdrawal of its vaccine, due to a “surplus of available updated vaccines”. The main reason provided is that it has been made obsolete by the mRNA shots. No side effects have been reported other than those already known, but it is highly likely that the news of AstraZenecas’s decision will boost disinformation on the issue ahead of the EU elections. The false narrative about the alleged high dangerousness of vaccine shots has been one of the most prominent and pervasive disinformation narratives since the outbreak of the pandemic.

⛔️🇵🇱 The false theory that bilingual road signs in Poland mean that the country is giving away parts of its territory. In Poland, a video on TikTok falsely claims that Silesia – a historical region of Central Europe that is mostly within the country, with small parts in the Czech Republic and Germany – will have road signs in Silesian, Polish, and German due to a new law recognizing Silesian as a regional language. According to the video, this would prove that a part of the region will return under the control of Germany, as it was before WWII, to be repopulated with Ukrainian citizens and in an attempt to “erase Poland”. However, the proposed law seeks to recognize Silesian as a regional language, allowing for bilingual signs in Silesian and Polish. It has nothing to do with Germany or the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees, as the video misleadingly suggests.

📺 Fears of worsening state of media freedom and information in Slovakia. According to CEDMO, the local EDMO Hub, media freedom remains a concern in Slovakia following the passage of a draft bill to overhaul RTVS, the country’s public broadcaster, which also led to a strike of its journalists. In addition to these concerns, according to local and international media outlets, the possibility of the politician Lukáš Machala becoming the new director of RTVS is particularly worrying. Machala is a former member of right-wing and far-right parties in Slovakia, and he is known for supporting conspiracy theories. In the past few days interview footage of him questioning the true shape of the Earth has been making the rounds on social and traditional media, but Machala spread less trivial and much more worrying falseness in the past, about Putin, Covid-19, Jews, and the Illuminati, and these conspiracy theories have recently resurfaced.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🕌🇪🇸 The creation of the Catalan Islamic Emirate. With the Catalan elections scheduled for May 12, immigration is one of the main topics of political debate in the region, according to local fact-checking organizationsAs reported previously in this newsletter, disinformation about the alleged willingness to Islamize the region is polluting social media and the public discourse. In this context, a political party, as part of its campaign, put up some road signs at the entrance of different cities, saying “Welcome to the Islamic Emirate of Catalonia” or “No to Islamization”. Photos of these posters then circulated on social media, with users claiming that the signs were put there by migrant communities in the region, in an attempt to create an Islamic Emirate and reclaim the sovereignty of these cities.

At the same time, other false claims are circulating about alleged initiatives in other countries to counter the alleged Islamization. For example, the false stories that Switzerland is considering banning Islam in the country or that people are fleeing London after the re-election of Sadiqu Khan as mayor of the city.

👨🏼‍💼 The false narratives portraying politician as dangerous for their own countries. In recent days, posts on TikTok in Poland suggested that Prime Minister Donald Tusk claimed that “Polishness is abnormal”. This quote was taken out of context from a decades-old article and spread by disinformation actors to discredit the politician and “prove” a distasteful attitude toward his own country, framing him as an elite, establishment politician or a “puppet of the West”.

In Spain, disinformation about PM Pedro Sanchez continues to circulate, for example suggesting that The Guardian called him a “toxic politician”.

💥 CEDMO reports a pervasive impact of disinformation in Central Europe.  According to the latest CEDMO Fact-checking brief (in Polish), which covers the first quarter of 2024, 45% of the population in the Czech Republic was exposed to disinformation narratives, while in Slovakia the number was even higher, around 58%. For the first time since August 2023, people in Slovakia reported encountering more false news than accurate information in March, the month in which the first round of the presidential election took place.

In Poland, the second edition of the report Disinformation Through the Eyes of Poles (in Polish) by Demagog Poland shows that up to 84% of Poles have encountered fake news, with false narratives ranging across all facets of society – health, climate, technology, politics, and more – and potentially serious implications on voting behavior and election outcomes.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🚶🏻‍♂️‍➡️🇺🇦 Disinformation targeting Ukrainian refugees also uses sexist clichés. Recently, a widespread false story claims that a Ukrainian woman won the “World Sex Championship”, in line with the Russian narrative that tries to blame Ukrainians on the moral level, also using sexism and anti-LGBTQ+ stereotypes. The false story has spread mainly on Facebook, triggering a storm of offensive and anti-Ukraine comments. In fact, the “World Sex Championship” is a kind of reality show and the woman who won was Swedish. The false story was detected in: CZ, SK, PL, BG, FR.

Other unfounded stories portray Ukrainian refugees as better treated than European citizens, consistently with recurring false narratives about them and similar to those targeting migrants from other parts of the world.

🌐 Cyber attacks and Russian propaganda. The Czech News Agency (ČTK) recently fell victim to an attack wherein hackers posted a false news story about the attempted assassination of Slovak president-elect Peter Pellegrini. The false story was unable to circulate widely because it was swiftly detected and retracted. Anyway, the false information alleged Ukrainian involvement in the killing, showing clear intent on the hackers’ part to stir controversy and drive a wedge through the societies of both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have seen large numbers of Ukrainian refugees arriving since the start of the war.

Similar cyberattacks were also observed in Poland, where the Belarusian group Ghostwriter carried out phishing operations to steal information and distribute malware. In Italy, the number of cyberattacks increased by 30% in 2023 – according to numbers quoted by members of the government – with politically motivated attacks rising by nearly 625%, mainly due to pro-Russia and pro-Palestine hacktivists.

👨🏼‍🌾🇪🇺 Conspiracy theories about the EU and agriculture. Amid the ongoing farmer protests in Europe and related disinformation narratives, sometimes false stories tend towards conspiratorialism. In Bulgaria, in the context of fearmongering about new European rules on New Genomic Techniques (NGT), false claims are circulating that the EU considers agriculture to be “ecocide” and therefore plans to reduce the number of farmers and farms, as well as ban home gardens.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🚶🏻‍♂️‍ The false narrative that migrants want to take power. Aside from the recirculation of false narratives that portray migrants as violent or criminal or opposed to Western values – a well-known rhetoric used by disinformers – some false stories suggest an ongoing attempt by migrants to take power, even through violence. In Spain, in particular, false stories about migrants taking over the political sphere claim that in some cities the number of migrants is already so high that they are the majority and can elect mayors, while in the context of the upcoming Catalan elections, false stories depict an alleged political willingness to Islamize the region.

Such claims are similar to others recently circulated by X accounts known for spreading disinformation, claiming the “Islamization” of London after Sadiq Khan’s re-election as mayor of the city. For example, recirculating old and unrelated videos previously used to spread disinformation about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

🚨🇷🇺 Russian covert operations in EU warnings. Intelligence agencies across Europe have issued warnings about Russia’s increased efforts to commit acts of sabotage, including covert bombings and arson attacks on infrastructure. As the Financial Times reports, this escalation in covert operations shows little regard for civilian security and marks a shift to more aggressive tactics by the Kremlin. At the same time, cyber-attacks have recently been launched on critical EU member states infrastructures.

🤖 AI chatbots are providing political advice on social media, as well as strategies for running disinformation campaigns. In a recent investigation, Snapchat’s AI chatbot was found to be offering “concerning” voting recommendations to young users in Belgium. The AI suggests voting for certain parties, while labeling others as controversial. Read more about Snapchat’s AI chatbot here: “Job verloren? Stem op Vooruit of PVDA. Vlaams Belang? Dat is een controversiële partij.” Hoe onze reporter ontdekt dat Snapchat “onrustwekkend” stemadvies geeft aan jongeren

At the same time, another investigation highlighted how chatbots from major tech firms suggested tactics for EU campaigning, including spreading disinformation and stoking fears about EU policies, despite user agreements prohibiting such practices. Under specific command, one of them “repeatedly advised spreading ‘deliberate false information’ about the EU through ‘anonymous channels’ and ‘sowing fear’ about the consequences of European policies. ‘For example: the EU wants to ban our cheese!’”. Read more about the AI chatbots suggesting to spread disinformation here: Chatbots adviseerden: verspreid desinformatie en zaai angst over EU-verkiezingen

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇪🇸 Disinformation and attacks on Spanish PM Sánchez’s refusal to resign. Following allegations against his wife, Begona Gomez, for alleged ties to private companies receiving public contracts and funds, on April 24th Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez decided to suspend his public duties, a decision shared through a public letter. Soon after this decision several conspiracy theories about Sánchez’s position began to circulate in Spain, claiming, for example, that the pause was due to a possible blackmailing by Israel.

However, after five days of consideration, Sánchez announced he would continue as prime minister and a new wave of false stories about this decision is now circulating in the country. He is being falsely accused of having gone on vacation after deciding to continue leading the government, or of having prepared beforehand the questions for the interviews that he conceded. Other false allegations try to portray him as authoritarian and his government as satanist, or exaggerate the popular support for the extreme right opposition against Sánchez. At the same time, false stories have accused his wife of being corrupt and linked to the Moroccan authorities, amid other disinformation stories.

👨🏼‍💼 👩🏻‍💼 Other unfounded stories targeting politicians. Although the previous Spanish disinformation case so far appears to be confined to the country, false stories targeting politicians are common and may grow as the elections approach. Recent false claims alleged that Britta Ernst, the wife of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, is a transgender woman, a story echoing a similar false narrative recently used against Brigitte Macron. In Germany, several politicians have been linked to Nazism, while other false stories try to discredit representatives by suggesting alleged citizen actions against them.

As highlighted in a previous issue, homophobic sentiments are often exploited to target politicians and, more recently, also European values, allegedly favoring “new” family models. At the same time, Russian propaganda tries to leverage public figures to spread fear and confusion among its citizens. In Croatia, for example, Russian channels pushed the false story that the Croatian prime minister had been killed by the country’s armed forces.

🔎 Shifting geopolitical attitudes in CEE countries. The GLOBSEC Trends 2024 report highlights evolving geopolitical perspectives in Central and Eastern European (CEE) nations, particularly in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The study reveals that 78% of the surveyed backed EU membership and 81% supported NATO in CEE countries. Additionally, there is a growing push for an EU army to reduce reliance on the US, with a 63% average agreement. The report also highlights fears of a present war: although 74% of respondents are in favor of continued military support for Ukraine, nearly half believe that providing military assistance provokes Russia and brings them closer to war. Read the full report here: GLOBSEC Trends 2024: CEE – A Brave New Region?

🎯 Check out the latest issue of the EDMO Weekly Insights and Early Warnings ahead of the June elections. This week’s edition looks at the persistent circulation of conspiracy theories about the pandemic and at the growing disinformation narrative about direct EU intervention in the war in Ukraine, which may continue to grow following further recent statements by French president Macron. It also includes early warnings on what kind of disinformation to expect ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest and in light of newly approved European laws. Read the full text here: WEEKLY INSIGHTS and EARLY WARNINGS, n. 4

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

💉🌍 Conspiracies about the pandemic are still circulating. Years after the implementation of the measures to contrast the spread of COVID-19, disinformation about them still affects the infosphere. Recently false claims have been circulated alleging that the EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, is under investigation because her husband allegedly works for the company that supplied a large amount of vaccine shots to the EU, during the worst phase of the pandemic. At the same time, false stories also suggest that the New York Times sued the EU Commission for handling the pandemic phase, similar to narratives used in national contexts.

Among the various conspiracies, a persistent disinformation narrative portrays allegedly dangerous effects of vaccines. A particular strand of this narrative seeks to capitalize on the deaths of athletes – and their appeal to the public – to falsely claim that they were caused by vaccines. Sometimes this narrative overlaps with Russian propaganda, as in recent cases in Italy where it was claimed that Navalny’s death was due to vaccination or that unvaccinated citizens were being recruited to fight in Ukraine.

🌱🔥 The misleading claim that the EU has banned the burning of garden waste in Sweden. Claims are circulating on social media that the EU has banned the burning of garden waste in Sweden. This misleading story has been widely shared on platforms such as TikTok. In reality, Sweden’s new waste regulations, effective from January 2024, result from an EU directive requiring member states to better manage bio-waste but, while the directive aims to promote recycling and protect the environment, it is not a direct ban. In fact, its implementation has led to differences among Sweden’s 290 municipalities, which can be flexible and consider exceptions. In recent months, other anti-EU messages about the Nature Restoration Law have circulated in the country, portraying the European institution as authoritarian.

🇪🇺 Concerns over Russian interference in Bulgarian elections. The European Parliament has expressed worry regarding Russian interference in Bulgaria’s national Parliament upcoming elections on June 9. In a resolution passed during its final plenary session in Strasbourg, the Parliament also highlighted the presence of a network of Russian-controlled disinformation agents in Bulgaria, operating across social media, traditional media, academic circles, and political parties. Additional concerns include the influence wielded by Russian state-owned properties in the country, such as the “Kamchia” complex on the Black Sea coast, a territory of nearly 470,000 square meters, wholly owned by the City of Moscow. Read more here and here.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🤝🇺🇦 False stories undermining support for Ukraine. Aside from the disinformation narratives alleging direct EU involvement in ground operations in Ukraine, other false narratives are targeting support for the invaded nation. These narratives have been ongoing for months, but as EDMO highlighted in a recent Early Warning, they could escalate due to the new centrality in media coverage. For example, it has recently been claimed that Bulgarian citizens are being killed by the Ukrainian army with the same ammunition they sent to fight Russia, that support for Ukraine is devastating Europe, or that countries that contribute the most to aid to the country are responsible for fueling the war and killing Ukrainians. These false stories were detected in: BG, DE, LT.

🌪️ Disinformation about climate manipulation in Dubai. Recent violent flooding in the United Arab Emirates has been used to spread various conspiracy theories that somehow suggest human control of the climate. Apart from exaggerating the storm and rainfall, the false content claimed that it was caused by the “HAARP” project – a kind of laser beam, according to disinformers –, cloud seeding, or chemtrails, similar to the narratives that affected extreme events in the EU last year. Other claims suggested the presence of chemicals in the air due to Saharan dust carried by the wind, a common phenomenon in southern EU countries. Similar claims circulated in: EL, PL, ES, IT, RO.

🇷🇺 Doppelgänger disinformation campaign still running in the EU. Although uncovered in 2022, the pro-Russian “Doppelgänger” disinformation campaign, which spreads false articles imitating Western media, is still active. Recently, misleading posts on social media platforms like X have falsely claimed that articles from “Der Spiegel” accused the German government of being under US influence and criticized its policies, to tarnish Germany’s support for Ukraine and stir up negative sentiment against the federal government. These efforts are linked to a coordinated network of bot accounts, which also promote posts and ads on social media. Read more here: “Doppelgänger”-Kampagne verbreitet gefälschte “Spiegel”-Artikel und schaltet Werbung in sozialen Medien

ℹ️ As tomorrow is a national holiday in various EU countries, the next issue of the Disinfo Bulletin will be delivered on Thursday, May 2.

ℹ️ Due to a malfunction of the tool used to distribute the Daily Bulletin, this issue has been released later than usual. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your understanding

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🪖🇪🇺 The false narrative about the EU preparing a direct intervention in the war in Ukraine is expanding. In various countries, unfounded stories consistent with those already signaled in this past newsletter allege that soldiers from EU countries are being killed in the war, or even that the EU is going to decide on military conscription, as suggested by a video on TikTok circulated in Poland.

Also outside the European borders it is claimed that troops from EU countries are arriving in Ukraine, while other stories purport the killing of US fighters in battles. Countries where these claims were detected: PL, DE, ES, HR.

🗳️ 🇪🇸 The false claims that the Catalan Election has been suspended. A misleading post circulated on X claimed that the Catalan parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12 were suspended, just as the official campaign was about to start. The post, which appeared shortly after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a temporary pause in his political agenda, garnered 24,000 views and numerous interactions. However, such allegations were unfounded and the elections will be held as scheduled. This case is significant because disinformation about the electoral process has been very common in recent elections and it is reasonable to expect that it will resurface in the context of the EU elections.

💡 “Be Election Smart” campaign launched. EDMO and its Hubs have launched the “Be Election Smart” media literacy campaign to counter disinformation and empower European citizens to safely navigate the electoral information landscape ahead of the June elections. This six-week campaign, which starts today, provides weekly messages and practical tips, distributed across EDMO’s networks and translated by local experts. Here are the first tips from the EDMO MIL community: #BeElectionSmart

ℹ️ Due to a malfunction of the tool used to distribute the Daily Bulletin, this issue has been released later than usual. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.

If you have suggestions, comments or requests about this newsletter, you can write to [email protected]

This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

👨🏼‍🌾 Disinformation about the farmers’ protest is still circulating, claiming that the category is being penalized by institutions. After a few days of protests for the Spanish farmers, an old video has been circulated in the country and captioned as showing the police repressing the current rallies. In Slovenia, the number of agricultural workers has been diminished and the number of employees in the Ministry of Agriculture has been exaggerated, suggesting that the country prefers to invest in public administration rather than in the agricultural sector. In Poland, the EU has been accused of forcing the flooding of peatlands, and it has also been claimed that lab-grown meat is made of cancer cells. In February, false claims were also made that the sale of artificial meat had been approved by the EU. These false stories were detected in PL, ES, SI.

🚶🏻‍♂️‍➡️ Anti-migration rhetoric is at the forefront of the political stage in Central Europe. Since the region is a key player for various migratory patterns and has seen notable migration from the war in Ukraine, this issue is certain to play a large role in local elections and those on the EU level. In the Czech Republic, political figures have made hostile comments regarding migration and openly criticized the new EU pact on migration, while political parties have targeted migration as a key issue. In Poland, a recent poll showed that 70% of the population feels that the EU is handling migration negatively, although responses mostly affirmed support for the European Union in general.

CEDMO’s Q4 2024 fact-checking brief shows that disinformation surrounding migration has played key roles in elections within the region, and as campaigning picks up for EU parliamentary elections, harmful, untrue narratives are likely to multiply, demonizing migrants coming to or through Central Europe and alienating voter bases.

🎯 Check out the latest issue of the EDMO Weekly Insights and Early Warnings ahead of the June elections. This week’s edition looks at the anti-LGBTQ+ narratives exploited to target politicians and a new form of climate denialism. It also includes early warnings on what kind of disinformation is to expect after the US new aid package to Ukraine and recently approved new EU fiscal rules. Read the full text here: WEEKLY INSIGHTS and EARLY WARNINGS, n. 3

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This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇷🇺🌐 Russian disinformation network “Pravda” grew bigger in the EU, even after its uncovering. The announced EDMO investigation into the Russian network of copycat websites called “Pravda” is out. Despite its uncovering by the Viginum Agency in February, the activation of copycat websites continued, multiplying them in the European online landscape. The EDMO fact-checking network has now completed its detailed investigation into the reach and impact of this extensive Russian disinformation campaign, mapping the operational characteristics and geographical spread of the network and its attempts to sway public discourse ahead of the EU elections.

The impact of these websites, according to the fact-checking organizations that contributed to the investigation, is limited for now. But the broad dissemination of the Pravda network in multiple EU languages raises doubts about the real objectives of the whole operation and concerns about future developments. Read the full text here: Russian disinformation network “Pravda” grew bigger in the EU, even after its uncovering .

🏳️‍🌈👨🏼‍💼 Leveraging anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in the political sphere continues. After the Belgian case mentioned in yesterday’s issue, another case of exploitation of LGBTQ+ stereotypes surfaced in Poland. A video showing people dancing and then boarding a train was falsely labeled as showing “the children of Trzaskowski”, the Mayor of Warsaw. The video was actually shot in Sydney but the false content tries to capitalize on associating the Polish politician with negative anti-LGBTQ+ prejudices. A similar pattern was also recently observed in Slovakia, where the video was captioned as showing “disappointed Korčok voters” leaving Slovakia after the candidate lost the presidential election.

🇪🇺 Awareness and intention to vote in European elections on the rise. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, European citizens are increasingly aware of the importance of voting in the European elections. Not only do 65% recognize the importance of their country’s EU membership, but a significant 71% also believe that their country has benefited from EU membership. This increased awareness correlates with a notable increase in voting intentions, with 71% of respondents saying they are likely to vote in the upcoming elections (10 percentage points higher than the results of the 2019 survey). Discover all the data here: EP Spring 2024 Survey: Use your vote – Countdown to the European elections .

ℹ️ Tomorrow is a national holiday in Italy, where this newsletter is produced. The next issue of the Disinfo Bulletin will come out on Friday, April 26.

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This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🍃 New denial narrative targeting renewable energy. In addition to the classic climate denialism, new disinformation narratives focus on discrediting the responses to the crisis rather than its existence. In recent months, especially in the Nordic countries, false narratives about wind farms claimed that wind turbines are dangerous or polluting. Similar false content is now spreading into other countries such as ItalyGermanyLatviaSlovenia, and others. Moreover, in Bulgaria, it was recently claimed that a huge solar farm was being built on cultivable land. The claim was false but sponsored on social media, a dangerous tactic that could be used in the run-up to the EU elections. So far, false stories about renewable energy have been detected in almost all of the EU countries.

🗳️🇪🇸 Disinformation about the Basque elections. 
On April 21, elections were held in the Basque Country, one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities. In this context, it was claimed that a national television station allegedly discredited some political forces in favor of others, while a video on social media purported to show an alleged vote manipulation by a polling station member, who supposedly changed the vote of an elderly woman. Both claims are false, but they show that even smaller elections are affected by disinformation targeting the integrity of the electoral process, one of the most common narratives in the context of elections. It is highly possible that this type of disinformation will also affect the European voting.

🏳️‍🌈👨🏼‍💼 Anti-LGBTQ+ false stories are being used to target political parties. Trying to link LGBTQ+ people to sexual abuse is one of the most common disinformation narratives targeting this community, with false stories often alleging their willingness to indoctrinate children. Recently in Belgium, false information claimed that the youth of a political party proposed to teach pedophilia in schools, in what seems to be an attempt to directly discredit a political force and capitalize on this false narrative in the electoral competition.

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This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🌍🌋 How climate denialism uses false assumptions on CO2. In the wave of usual climate denialism recently signaled in this newsletter and in the EDMO Early Warnings and Weekly Insights, a particular strand concerns the amount and effects of CO2 in the atmosphere. For example, false stories claim that there is no urgency to reduce CO2 to save the planet (or even that there is a “shortage of carbon dioxide”), that global forests absorb more CO2 annually than humans emit, or that a volcanic eruption emitted more CO2 than humans did in 100 years.

All these claims are proven false by science, but they often surface in several national political discourses, promoted by political actors or used to trivialize the climate crisis. This is a long-running false narrative but it has recently been detected in: PL, IT, DE, DA, ES, LT, FR, and other EU countries.

💉🇩🇪 The false story about the German government admitting that the pandemic was a psychological test. Most of the recent disinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic has focused on the alleged negative effects of the vaccines, but sometimes conspiracy theories also circulate. Recently, a false story claimed that Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, had admitted that “there was no pandemic” but “a carefully crafted military psychological operation to brainwash the masses into accepting lockdowns and an experimental vaccine with catastrophic consequences”. This false story was detected in: EL, PT, ES.

🔎 Professional fact-checking is better. A recent study by the Misinformation Review at Harvard University examines how Americans respond to fact-checking labels. According to the study, “U.S. adults evaluated fact-checking labels created by professional fact-checkers as more effective than labels by algorithms and other users”, showing that these labels have a significant impact on public perception of news credibility and highlighting the effectiveness of journalistic interventions to combat mis/disinformation. Read the full study here: Journalistic interventions matter: Understanding how Americans perceive fact-checking labels | HKS Misinformation Review .

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This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🏳️‍🌈 The conspiracy theory about the alleged elite’s secret plan to impose an LGBTQ+ agenda is resurfacing. One of the most insidious narratives targeting LGBTQ+ people suggests the willingness of the ruling class to impose the values of this minority on all citizens. Claims consistent with this rhetoric have recently been debunked in various countries. In Greece, it has been falsely claimed that the government had required every hotel in the country to display a rainbow flag, in Bulgaria that the Council of Europe wants children to change sex, and in Croatia that the WEF wants to legalize pedophilia, with which LGBTQ+ people are often unjustly linked by disinformation stories. Such claims were tracked in: EL, BG, HR.

🇪🇺 The false story that the EU is secretly reintroducing the death penalty. According to false claims spread via telegram channels, the EU would be reinstating the death penalty through the “back door”, thus allowing the killing of people in order to suppress an insurrection. These unproven allegations have been spread via Telegram channels within EU borders and also in candidate countries, in a clear attempt to discredit European institutions and undermine support for integration, as recently happened with the alleged refusal of the Euro by EU countries, also signaled in previous issues of this newsletter. This false story was detected in: HR and, outside the EU borders, BA.

🎯 Check out the latest issue of the EDMO Weekly Insights and Early Warnings ahead of the June elections. This week’s edition looks at widespread disinformation narratives on climate and Ukraine that could undermine support for climate action and for the invaded nation in the run-up to election day. It also includes early warnings on how disinformation could exploit Iran’s attack on Israel and its consequences, and the interruption of the National Conservatism Conference in Brussels to target the EU. Read the full text here: WEEKLY INSIGHTS and EARLY WARNINGS, n. 2

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This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🍓 The false story of the strawberries threatening Spaniards. Recently, false claims are circulating in Spain that the country is importing strawberries from Morocco, supposedly infested with insects, endangering fair trade and public health. In fact, these are completely fabricated allegations. The allegations are similar to others that circulated in the wave of disinformation surrounding the recent farmers’ protests, about which false stories and sometimes conspiracy theories are still circulating – for example, the one that says that Bill Gates wants to replace farmers with artificial intelligence.

🇫🇷🐓 False content that discredits president Macron of France. As reported in the latest EDMO Monthly Brief, French president Emmanuel Macron was the target of disinformation narratives in March. In addition to the false stories mentioned in the brief, other false content targeting him sought to influence the public perception of his figure. For example, fabricated magazine covers depicted him as a warmonger or a failed leader. Exploiting homophobic stereotypes, false stories also purported to show photos and videos of him kissing Ukrainian President Zelensky or dancing in a disco in the 1980s, while other fabricated content claimed that his wife was born male. These false stories were detected in: FR, EL, IT, HU, LT, BG, ES, DE, but also outside the EU.

👍 And now, some good news: although disinformation continues to challenge democracy in Europe, it is not flying entirely under the radar. A CEDMO survey notes that, in Slovakia, the majority of citizens are aware of the impacts of disinformation, with 77% saying they consider it a serious problem. An encouraging result, quite close to broader EU results where 83% of respondents consider “fake news” and disinformation to be a danger. However, according to local fact-checking organizations, a lot remains to be done. Read more here:  Three-quarters of Slovaks perceive the spread of disinformation as a threat to Slovakia’s security.

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This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇪🇺 The EDMO monthly brief on disinformation detected in March is out. According to information provided by 36 fact-checking organizations that contributed to this edition, the main topics of disinformation in March were the Russian aggression of Ukraine (14% of the total detected disinformation items), climate change (8%) and the EU (8%).

Two news items in particular prompted significant streams of disinformation:

  • Macron’s words about the possibility of sending European troops to Ukraine to help Kyiv win the war against Russia, which became the opportunity to spread demonstrably false content about the escalation of the war;
  • The terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall, a concert hall near Moscow, with various false videos and images trying to support the Kremlin’s narrative about Ukraine’s responsibility.

You can read the full brief here: Monthly brief no. 34 – EDMO fact-checking network

🇬🇪 Georgian government tries (again) to push the law on foreign agents, falsely claiming that the EU is discussing a similar directiveEDMO hosted an investigation from the Georgian fact-checking organization Grass (EFCSN and IFCN signatory) analyzing similarities and differences between the Georgian draft and the EU proposed directive. It clearly emerges that the differences are substantial, and the EU is well aware of this. In the Explanatory memorandum of the directive, it is clearly stated that the proposal “differs radically from those observed in certain other jurisdictions (characterized as ‘foreign agent’ laws). Such laws often include measures that unduly restrict civic space by stigmatizing, intimidating and curtailing the activities of certain civil society organizations (CSOs), journalists or human rights defenders. The label of ‘foreign agent’ under such laws frequently seeks to undermine both the financial stability and credibility of the organizations targeted. In contrast to such ‘foreign agent laws’, this proposal does not negatively label the activities of specific entities, including CSOs, nor does it seek to limit civic space”.

🧊 Climate-change deniers claim that changes in Antarctic sea ice coverage prove global warming is not happening. Recently released data on the extent of Arctic ice shows that it reached its 15th lowest level since the 1970s. The fact that the ice was not at the lowest has been exploited by several social media posts to claim that the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps have grown significantly, suggesting that global warming is not occurring. This narrative is part of the usual denialism purporting that climate change does not exist, or that its effects are part of natural cycles and therefore not dependent on human activity.  However, long-term data confirm the continuing significant reduction in ice cover in both the Arctic and Antarctic, underscoring the seriousness of global warming, despite seasonal exceptions. This narrative was detected in: PL, IT, SE.

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Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇷🇺 Even when uncovered, Russian propaganda and disinformation keeps spreading in Europe. In February 2024 the Viginum Agency, which operates under the French Secretariat-General for National Defence and Security (SGDSN), published a report in which it announced the identification of a Russian large-scale disinformation campaign in Europe. The network of websites was named “Portal Kombat”. One of its main goals appears to be the spreading of pro-Russian disinformation and propaganda in many EU languages, in particular French, German, Spanish and English, through a web of copycat websites named Pravda, that were activated in the second half of 2023. It is possible that this is an attempt to influence the public discourse by launching a foreign information manipulations and interference (FIMI) campaign.

Even after its unveiling by the Viginum Agency, the proliferation of these Pravda websites in the EU did not stop. Their activation in April in Greek, Italian, Bulgarian, Danish and Dutch was recently detected by Greece Fact Check, a Greek fact-checking organization member of the EDMO network. The EDMO fact-checking network has launched an investigation to better understand the reach, characteristics and impact of this network, and it will be published in the next few weeks.

🇪🇺 Detected disinformation about the EU slowly but consistently grows ahead of the elections. EDMO monitors through its monthly briefs the quantitative evolution of disinformation regarding different topics, such as Ukraine, the pandemic, climate change and so on. EU-related disinformation has been monitored for the past 10 months. We can anticipate here the latest data that will be included in the 34th brief, scheduled for publication on the 17th of April.

In March, the percentage of EU-related disinformation on the total detected disinformation was 8%. This confirms a growing trend since the beginning of the EDMO monitoring: the average of the first 5 months is 4,4%, the average of the last 5 months is 7%. It is probable that the percentage will continue to increase until the elections.

🚃 Thousands of attempts to destabilize the Czech rail system have been detected by Czech transport authorities since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. In the Czech Republic, these efforts have included service attacks on ticketing systems and attempted signal interference to cause accidents. Generally, this kind of attack appears to target European energy infrastructure in order to make the EU appear weak in the face of external cyber threats. Various EU efforts, such as the so-called “Cyber solidarity package”, are focused on strengthening Europe’s resilience in the face of potential attacks, while the threat of foreign action against cyber infrastructure continues to loom as the June elections approach.

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🇷🇺 Belgian authorities have opened an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the European Parliament. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the country’s authorities had opened an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the European Parliament. According to De Croo, the investigation concerns a Russian propaganda network whose objective is apparently to favor the election of pro-Russian MEPs in the next European elections as well as to weaken EU support to Ukraine, and whose members also paid some European parliamentarians from various countries.

De Croo said the Belgian investigation was launched after Czech authorities unmasked, at the end of March, pro-Russian propaganda actions carried out by the online newspaper Voice of Europe that allegedly even paid European lawmakers to promote a pro-Russian agenda.

💶 The false story that Romania refused to introduce the Euro. After 13 years of waiting, Bulgaria and Romania partially joined the Schengen area at the end of March. In the same days, in Bulgaria, false claims spread on social media that Romania had refused to adopt the Euro. These posts spread, without any credible source, especially on Facebook, in groups with strong pro-Russian leanings, with names such as “Bulgarians for Exit from EU and NATO” or “Bulgaria and Russia brotherly nations”, undermining trust in EU integration processes and reaching over 200,000 users.

In fact, Romania, which joined the EU along with Bulgaria in 2007, is required to adopt the euro once it meets certain convergence criteria set out in the Maastricht Treaty, but it has not yet done so. This false history was detected in BG.

🤖 It’s hard to spot a deepfakeDefined as the manipulation or artificial generation of audio, video, or other digital content to spread false information, a recent CEDMO survey shows that the majority of the population in the Czech Republic does not know what a deepfake is. The majority of respondents by the regional EDMO hub could not identify the generated content they were asked to evaluate, much less be prepared to identify it if seen on social media or untrustworthy news sites.

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Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

👑 The false story that Zelensky bought a residence owned by King Charles III. According to an unfounded claim spreading quickly across several countries, the Ukrainian president Zelensky bought a building previously belonging to the British royal family: Highgrove House, the private residence of King Charles III and his wife. This unfounded information, spread by Russian propaganda channels, is often accompanied by false claims suggesting that the purchase was made with money that Ukraine received from Western countries to resist the Russian invasion of its territories.

Recently, another false story that Zelensky had bought a villa previously belonging to the Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels was widely disseminated in the EU. So far, the false story about the Highgrove House has been detected in: ES, IT, DE, NL, CZ.

🗳️🇪🇸 The false narrative that the Spanish government is “giving citizenship” to half a million illegal migrants. Following a petition by ordinary citizens, the Spanish Congress recently admitted to be discussed in Parliament a proposal to regularize around 500,000 illegal migrants living in the country since 2021. Numerous claims have appeared on social media that the government is allegedly “giving away Spanish citizenship to masses of illegal immigrants” to allow them to vote at the elections. In fact, this is a popular legislative initiative that Congress has only admitted for parliamentary scrutiny, so it must go through the normal parliamentary process before it can be enacted. However, the proposed legislature involves only a regularization of their immigrant status, and not citizenship as falsely claimed.

This kind of false stories have already been detected in other national contexts and may appear in other countries as the EU elections approach. For more on this and other disinformation campaigns likely to be pushed ahead of the EU elections… ⬇️

🎯 Check out the first edition of the EDMO Weekly Insights and Early Warnings ahead of the June elections. This weekly publication aims to report on the major disinformation incidents and to warn about the disinformation narratives to expect in the run-up to the elections, based on an analysis of events that can trigger disinformation. Read the first edition here: EDMO Weekly Insights and Early Warnings, Edition n°1.

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This tool gathers material from the inputs of the EDMO fact-checking network, as well as a recently launched public database from the EFCSN network (Elections 24 Check), and the various national EDMO hubs, including community initiatives and insights from individual fact-checking organizations. 

Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🌍 Several false narratives about climate change are on the scene. In recent days, a remarkable assortment of false narratives about climate change has resurfaced in various countries. False stories range from usual denialism to conspiracy theories (e.g. chemtrails), from painting measures to address the climate crisis as unfair to attacking climate activists, politicians and supporters as hypocrites or Nazis. These false stories were detected in: PL, DE, HR, EL, ES.

🫂🇬🇷 Anti-same sex marriage narratives in Greece. The debate around same-sex marriage has been very heated in Greece, since the country legalized it in February 2024. As a result, recent disinformation often focuses on this issue. False claims have alleged that the European Court of Human Rights ruled that there is no right to same-sex marriage, or that the Irish people rejected the possibility of same-sex marriage in a referendum, thus refusing the alleged “anomaly of the new order”.

🏳️‍🌈 Other false claims about LGBTQ+ issues 
are also widespread in other countries in recent weeks, often inciting hatred against this community: in France, it has been falsely claimed that the EU wants to impose surrogacy; in Cyprus, the bogus number that 86% of child rapists are gay or bisexual; and in Greece, that LGBTQ+ people are zoophiles. Countries where these unfounded allegations were detected: EL, FR, CY.

With elections taking place in June, Pride month, these narratives could escalate and be exploited to polarize public opinion before the vote. This risk seems even higher given that the EU is discussing the inclusion of abortion in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🪖🇪🇺 Surge of anti-Ukrainian disinformation ahead of EU Parliament Elections. With the European Parliament elections on the horizon and the support for Ukraine being one of the key issues at stake, disinformation campaigns pushed by pro-Russian actors are intensifying, fact-checkers and experts from different countries warn. Using false stories, these efforts seek to portray Ukrainian refugees as criminals or unfairly privileged over local citizens and falsely accuse Ukrainian officials of misappropriating Western aid, two of the most common pro-Russia disinformation narratives. Spreading these false stories – experts warn – appears to be strategically designed to erode EU support for Ukraine and bolster far-right and nationalist parties, leveraging on anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment. This kind of false stories circulated in: DE, CZ, HU, IT, ES, EL, NL, BG, AT, and other EU countries.

🕋 The false stories that Muslims protested against Holy Week. A well-known disinformation narrative depicting migrants as opposed to the Western way of living resurfaced in the context of the just passed Easter holidays. Stories circulated that Muslims had taken their host country to the European Court of Human Rights to have Holy Week declared offensive, or that Muslim worshippers had protested against Christians over Easter weekend in Sweden. These false stories circulated in: ES, SE.

🧻 The false story that the EU is considering banning toilet paper. According to unfounded claims circulated on the internet, European institutions would be banning toilet paper in the name of climate change. Since toilet paper should be climate unfriendly – false content says – EU institutions would be planning to make it forbidden in the European Union. This false narrative has been circulating since August 2023, but it seems to be recirculated as the EU elections loom. This content was detected in recent months in: PL, SK, RO.

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Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇸🇰 Disinformation about the presidential election in Slovakia. The final round of the presidential elections in Slovakia, held last weekend, was characterized by rampant disinformation and various attempts to discredit the two candidates, Ivan Korčok and Peter Pellegrini, even using deepfake videos. According to local fact-checking organizations and NGOs, the debate was highly polluted by Russian propaganda and Pellegrini’s victory may have been facilitated by a campaign based on false narratives. Other false stories have suggested alleged vote rigging during the first round and have also targeted Korčok in particular.

A few days before the election, it was falsely claimed, including by members of the government, that if Korčok had won, he would have sent Slovak soldiers to fight in Ukraine or abolished Slovakia’s veto right in the EU. Both claims were false: the president does not have such powers. To better understand the narratives that were at play during the elections, read the CEDMO election brief, a dedicated analysis from the regional EDMO Hub.

🪖 False narrative: the EU is directly involved in the war in Ukraine.
A broader involvement of the West in the war in Ukraine is a false message that disinformation has tried to vehiculate since the early stages of the invasion. However, some recent false stories try to link more specifically the EU to the battlefield. Recently, false claims circulated in Germany that a tank with an EU flag had been spotted on Russian territory (suggesting the EU involvement and trying to victimize Russia) and in Bulgaria that the country is “getting ready” for the war. This narrative was detected in: BG, DE.

🎯 Check out the EDMO Task Force’s analysis of what kind of AI-generated disinformation to expect ahead of the elections. The Task Force has published an article analyzing the different disinformation techniques using AI tools, and assessing the risks each of them poses ahead of the June elections. Read the full article here: Preventing AI-generated disinformation ahead of EU elections.

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Welcome to Disinfo Bulletin, your daily update from the EDMO network. Today's most relevant stories:

🇪🇺 The false story that Ursula von der Leyen belongs to a family linked with Nazism. Recent online claims allege that the president of the EU Commission has family connections to Nazi officials. This unfounded information has been already circulated in the past but gained traction again in the past few weeks. Recently, these accusations have been debunked by multiple fact-checking organizations, revealing no evidence of such ancestry. These false stories are consistent with disinformation narratives trying to depict EU institutions and their representatives as anti-democratic. This content was detected in: DE, AT, BE, SK, FR, ES, EL, CZ, IT, HU, HR, and others.

🕒 The false story that the European Union has postponed the switch to summertime due to Ramadan. On March 31, European countries switched to daylight saving time, moving clocks forward one hour from Standard Time. Instead, according to false information circulated in two countries just before the date, the EU institutions postponed the switch to Summer Time, supposedly to allow Ramadan observers to eat “one hour earlier”. This content was detected in: DE, PT.

🇵🇱 The conspiracy theory that Poland is disappearing from European maps. False content on TikTok circulating in Polish suggests that “Dutch media” only share maps of Europe that do not include Poland, which would imply that the country’s borders no longer exist. The voice in the video claims it is the “Partition of Poland in 2024”, suggesting a conspiracy to annex the country, but the image is taken from a game on Reddit.This content was detected in: PL.

🎯Check out the first output of the EDMO Task Force on 2024 EU Elections. It is a report on the disinformation narratives circulated in the context of the various national elections held in EU and Council of Europe member states in 2023. You can find the latest and most updated version here: Disinformation narratives during the 2023 elections in Europe.

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