Last week saw warnings that the upcoming French presidential election could be subject to similar interference as the vote for the US President in late 2016. President Putin has, as we previously reported, approved a budget increase of 1,22 billion roubles (ca USD 19 million) to enable his TV network RT (“Russia Today”) to broadcast into the home of potential French voters. Analysts see this as an attempt to influence the election outcome. But action is also shaping up against disinformation: First Draft News, a coalition of social media giants and online media that fight fake news, has now identified the French election as a case study: the network will use their pooled resources in order to examine the structures driving systemized trolling, fake news, and other attempts to influence the election by external actors. Bellingcat, one of the members of First Draft News, will use the investigative techniques developed during its work on the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and the downing of flight MH17, to examine the networks driving systematic trolling, fake news, and other attempts to influence the election by external actors.
This is only one part of the ambitious action plan that First Draft News has set out for its recently established network during 2017. The goal of the network is to collaborate on improving how information that emerges online is reported, verified, circulated and consumed. The list of network members reads like an impressive who’s who of the global media scene and includes the New York Times, BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, German TV network ARD, Dagbladet from Norway, French news agency AFP and fact-checkers Les Décodeurs as well as social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Google. Read the full list of the network here. The action plan for 2017 includes training and developing best practices, but also setting up a virtual verification community. Members of the network will work together on investigating the origins and authenticity of images, photographs, videos or claims that are suspected of being fake. The results of this work will be made available for the public.