Telegram was evading emails from Brazilian authorities for months, until mid-March this year, when the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled to ban the application over misinformation concerns ahead of the country’s elections. Two days later, Telegram complied with the court’s requests, which included deleting a few of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s posts and suspending the account of one of his prominent acolytes.
The court rescinded its embargo and not long after, Telegram and the Brazilian Electoral Court signed a cooperation agreement. Telegram indicated it would create a communication channel between itself and the court to receive reports on election disinformation and the app will now flag posts that have false information related to the elections.
Fact-checkers in the region have reacted with both skepticism and hope toward Telegram’s new signaling on matters of information spread.
“The agreement with the TSE (the Portuguese acronym for the Brazilian court) seems like a good first step from a tech company that, until a few months ago, didn’t even answer court orders from Brazil. I believe it is positive to cooperate with the electoral authorities and to signal misinformation about the elections, but we still have no clue on how Telegram will act on disinformation spread by candidates,” said Bernardo Barbosa, assistant editor at UOL Confere, a fact-checking outlet and verified signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles.
“They are addressing the problem of tackling misinformation as a legal or justice (department) issue and not as a product problem,” said Natália Leal, the CEO of Agência Lupa, another IFCN verified signatory, fact-checking and news outlet in Brazil. “They don’t have any kind of monitoring tool; they don’t want to develop it. They want us to do the monitoring work, but they want to control the scope of monitoring.”
Facebook also collaborates with fact-checking organizations and built an infrastructure around giving fact-checkers greater access and tools for analysis to tackle misinformation. On Facebook, fact-checkers can use an in-house platform to view trends, ways content is spreading on the platform and numerical information about viral posts. Though Leal also stated misgivings about Facebook, she said the platform was better overall for fact-checkers than Telegram.
“They don’t want to develop any kind of tool like how we have with Facebook for the Third-Party Fact-Checking Program,” Leal said. “We have the same access that any user has. You can download some numbers and some information from Telegram. It’s open, but it doesn’t mean it’s usable. It feels like they are not taking things seriously.”
Additionally, Telegram has been pushy in its correspondence with some fact-checking organizations, placing conditions on agreements that the organizations must sign by the end of the day while protracting its own response time to outlets’ communications, Leal said.
“In my opinion, Telegram should define a misinformation policy before taking any step forward, and make this policy clear for all users. We don’t want to start to work with Telegram and have a target on our back because users do not have knowledge or are not being informed about the new rules of the platform regarding misinformation,” Leal said.
Fact-checkers at Aos Fatos could not say much about recent developments with Telegram, having already signed nondisclosure agreements with the tech company.
Telegram did not respond to the International Fact-Checking Network’s multiple requests for comment.
This article was updated to remove information and a quote that were provided off the record. We regret the error.
- Newtral: Los bulos sobre Eurovisión 2022: el vídeo de Iceta bailando ‘SloMo’, la falsa queja de Podemos o el ‘saludo nazi’ ucraniano (Spanish)
- Newtral does a series of fact checks about the Eurovision song contest, one of which debunks the claim that one of this year’s winners, Ukrainian rap group Kalush Orchestra, performed a Nazi salute while walking off the stage. It’s a particularly charged accusation given that the existence of the far-right Ukrainian militant group, the Azov Battalion, has been used as a pretext by Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s invasion.
- USA Today: Fact check: No, goat’s milk is not a substitute for baby formula, experts say (English)
- A worldwide scarcity of baby formula has sparked a flurry of “quick fixes” and nutritional substitutes that just don’t work. One of the replacements being hawked online in the United States is goat’s milk. “There’s a baby formula shortage? Buy a goat! It’s far healthier than baby formula,” one online post reads. Doctors indicated that goat milk lacks essential nutrients that babies need.
- Reuters: Fact Check-Image of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and wife Ginni Thomas holding a bottle of wine predates leak of Roe v. Wade opinion (English)
- Following the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion that would reverse Roe v. Wade, an image began circulating of Justice Clarence Thomas, a George H.W. Bush appointee, and his wife, Ginni Thomas, sharing a bottle of wine to celebrate the decision. “As American women despair about abortion rights being taken away from them, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni post a photo of themselves enjoying a $5,135 bottle of fancy wine,” one post reads. Reuters found the photograph is from 2018 and not associated with the leaked draft.
- AFP Germany: Diese Panzer fahren zu einer Militärübung in den Westen Finnlands, nicht zur russischen Grenze (German)
- A claim spreading online says that a video shows Finnish tanks being transported to the Russian border. “The Finnish army told AFP the transport was part of an annual exercise planned before the Ukraine war,” wrote AFP Germany.
- Mongolian Fact-Checking Center: Generation Z and information immunity | Minutes of the visit to the debate competition (Mongolian)
- This isn’t a fact check and isn’t exactly recent, but last month, on International Fact-Checking Day, Mongolian Fact-Checking Center organized a debate and public speaking competition for university students as part of its efforts to raise awareness about fact-checking. Around 180 students participated, presenting on issues related to misinformation and fact-checking.
From the news:
- Twitter will hide tweets that share false info during a crisis: Big news in the misinformation space: Twitter implemented a policy that will change the way information spreads on its platform. Certain posts will now be hidden in “times of crisis.” (The Verge, Russell Brandom)
- Seven servers in Spain contained domains related to Pegasus in 2018: An investigation by Amnesty International revealed the extent to which spyware called Pegasus has spread in Spain. Seven different domains had indicators of compromise, including arabworldnews.info and economic-news.co. (Newtral, Marilín Gonzalo)
- YouTube CEO Says Work Remains to Curb Misinformation: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that there will always be incentives to create misinformation. “The challenge will be to keep staying ahead of that,” Wojcicki said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The video platform has been pressured by fact-checkers to do more to curb the spread of false information. (Bloomberg, Davey Alba)
- The Way We Discuss “Disinformation” Is Toxic: The piece discusses controversy surrounding the now-defunct Disinformation Governance Board, the origins of the term disinformation, and whether the terms mis- and disinformation have become buzzwords. When experts disagree, who has the authority to decide what is true? “I remain skeptical that any one entity, especially a government entity, should be granted increased responsibility over the truth in any capacity,” the author writes. (Stavroula Pabst, Slate)
From/for the community:
- The countdown is on. In June, more than 450 fact-checkers from 85 different countries will come together in Oslo, Norway, for the ninth annual GlobalFact. Join us at the world’s largest fact-checking summit June 22-25 to discuss the best practices of our craft and spark meaningful discourse. Can’t make it to Oslo? Virtual tickets are also available. Learn more at globalfact9.com.
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