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TWITTER LEFT THE EC´S CODE OF DISINFORMATION AND POLAND INVESTIGATES RUSSIA INFLUENCE IN THE COUNTRY

May 25-31, 2023 | Issue 16 - EUCOM, Counter Threat Strategic Communications, and Behavior and Leadership Teams

Dan Flanagan, Jayde Dorland, Gabriel Helupka, Sophia Ritscher, Megan Khalife

Steven Jones, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor


Twitter App Icon[1]


Date: May 26, 2023

Location: Europe

Parties involved: EU; EU officials; European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton; European Commission (EC); social media company Twitter; Twitter users; other social media platforms

The event: Twitter left the EC’s voluntary EU code of disinformation practice, which requires participating companies to submit progress reports stating how much advertising revenue they deny disinformation actors.[2] An EU official said Twitter, which will not leave the European market, does not issue regular reports, and their departure would have little impact on the organization's current efforts toward combatting disinformation. With Twitter’s withdrawal from the code of practice, it will no longer have to attend meetings or issue reports to the EU on the platform’s disinformation-related matters but would still have to follow legal obligations.[3] These obligations fall under the Digital Services Act (DSA) that takes effect August 25;[4] organizations must take risk-based actions to prevent system abuse and mitigate disinformation, cyber violence against women, harm to minors, election manipulation, and banning targeted advertising campaigns that manipulate users.[5]

Analysis & Implications:

  • There is a roughly even chance Twitter will introduce new policies to counter disinformation on its platform, very likely putting minimal effort into current practices to appease the EU and meet DSA requirements. Twitter will likely want to fulfill obligations under the DSA to avoid financial penalties and loss of revenue, very likely facing pressure from the EU to proactively counter disinformation. Twitter is unlikely to efficiently mitigate the spread of disinformation, likely leading to increased EU criticism of Twitter’s reluctance to fulfill its legal obligations. The EU will very likely create mandatory practices to compel Twitter’s participation in countering disinformation measures, likely attempting to enforce Twitter's compliance with fact-checking platform content.

  • Twitter’s failure to uphold counter-disinformation measures will very likely reinforce the dissemination of misleading narratives on the platform, with a roughly even chance of creating divisions among users over its disinformation stance. Twitter’s credibility as a popular social media platform will likely suffer damage, very likely leading to decreased public trust and user engagement. Users proficient in fact-checking will very likely view Twitter’s neutrality toward disinformation as a threat to the authenticity of current events, with a roughly even chance of some users migrating to other platforms.

  • State-sponsored actors will very likely take advantage of Twitter’s refusal to comply with the EU’s code, likely increasing disinformation spread on the platform. An increase in fake digital images of current events will likely surface in an attempt to exploit debate around EU disinformation policies and advance a political agenda. Continued dissemination of disinformation on Twitter has a roughly even chance of being viewed as a regional security threat by the EU, likely being held liable for any increase in cyber-violence, election interference, and targeted advertising campaigns.


Date: May 29, 2023

Location: Poland

Parties involved: Polish President Andrzej Duda; Poland; Polish Parliament; Polish Constitutional Tribunal; ruling political party the Law and Justice Party (PiS); main political opposition the Civic Platform (PO) party; leader of PO and former Prime Minister Donald Tusk; Polish citizens; Polish Judges' Association Iustitia; EU; Russia

The event: Duda stated Monday he would sign a bill to convene a panel investigating allegations the PO allowed Russia to influence the country when they were in power from 2007 to 2015. The panel will investigate potential influence between 2007-2022 and have the authority to impose a 10-year ban on obtaining a security clearance or overseeing public funds, disqualifying those found guilty from holding public office. The PO rejected the accusation and said this is an attempt to discredit Tusk ahead of parliamentary elections in fall 2023. Duda said he would have the Constitutional Tribunal review the bill to determine its constitutionality after criticisms. Iustitia stated the proposed bill breaches EU values and could warrant EU punitive measures for democratic backsliding.[6]

Analysis & Implications:

  • PiS will very likely use the panel to further increase control over the government, likely in an attempt to corner the opposition and reduce its influence ahead of the parliamentary elections. This will likely result in the increased targeting of prominent opposition members, like Tusk, very likely deepening the political divide and increasing the opposition's favorability among the public. There is a roughly even chance PiS’s attempts to sway undecided voters will fail, as citizens will see the panel as an illegitimate tool to exert power over the government's opponents.

  • The EU will almost certainly consider the panel formation as undermining Polish democracy and the rule of law and will very likely implement punitive measures, like withholding EU funds, to prevent further democratic backsliding. PiS will likely criticize any EU penalties and attempt to inform them of the legitimate influence concerns the panel could prove, stating its necessity. The EU will very likely launch an investigation into the panel's activities, likely to ascertain whether the panel has valid motives. It is likely that the EU will continue denouncing PiS’s panel formation process while supporting an investigation into potential Russian interference compliant with EU values.

 

[2] Twitter cannot hide from EU rules after exit from code, EU's Breton says, Reuters, May 2023, https://www.reuters.com/technology/twitter-cannot-hide-eu-rules-after-exit-code-eus-breton-says-2023-05-26/

[3] Twitter likely to quit EU code against disinformation, EU official says, Reuters, May 2023, https://www.reuters.com/technology/twitter-likely-quit-eu-code-against-disinformation-eu-official-says-2023-05-25/

[4] Twitter cannot hide from EU rules after exit from code, EU's Breton says, Reuters, May 2023, https://www.reuters.com/technology/twitter-cannot-hide-eu-rules-after-exit-code-eus-breton-says-2023-05-26/

[5] Questions and Answers: Digital Services Act, European Commission, April 2023, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/QANDA_20_2348

[6] Polish president signs 'Tusk Law' on undue Russian influence, Reuters, May 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/polish-president-sign-russian-influence-bill-despite-opposition-protests-2023-05-29/

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