Weekly

Kinzen's Weekly Wrap - September 16, 2022

With the Italian election approaching in just nine days' time, this week I checked in with Emma Cardea, an editorial analyst at Kinzen who is focused on the election. First of all I asked her for an example of the kind of false claims that are circulating in Italian social media at the moment about the vote itself:

“Italian citizens living abroad can vote either by post or at an Italian consulate or embassy. Thus, false claims that postal voting has led/could lead to widespread fraud are likely to proliferate. On September 6, a video of an Italian expat living in Spain warning against upcoming electoral fraud widely circulated on Facebook. In the video, the woman claims that the ballot paper she received by post did not include the symbols of anti-system parties Italexit and Vita. Italian fact-checker Facta debunked the video, noting that Italians living abroad cannot vote for these two parties because they failed to collect enough signatures to get in the overseas constituency.”

I then asked Emma about the role of anti-immigration sentiment in the country at this moment, since it’s been such a huge issues across Europe in recent years:

“Unsurprisingly, dangerous anti-immigration rhetoric is permeating platforms and social networks. As the election approaches, the number of posts and videos alleging that migrants drain the welfare system is increasing. Many spread the false claim that the "reddito di cittadinanza” (citizens' income), a social welfare system created in 2019 to combat poverty and unemployment, is automatically granted to migrants landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa.”

Finally, I asked Emma about the role of Russia. A recent Weekly Wrap referred to fears in Italy of Russian interference in the election:

“Ever since Mario Draghi’s coalition government collapsed, some have been speculating over whether or not Vladimir Putin was behind its fall. The speculations have come after a number of Italian media outlets, including La Stampa and La Repubblica, suggested that some Russian officials pressured Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini to withdraw from the Draghi government.

“Even though the allegations have not been corroborated, fears that the Kremlin could interfere in the national election by spreading disinformation to favour pro-Russian parties are not unfounded. As a matter of fact, it wouldn't be the first time the Russian government would try to interfere in an Italian election. An investigation conducted by Spanish daily El País following the 2018 national election showed that, at that time, “the Russian meddling machine” had conducted a large-scale disinformation campaign on the migration situation in order to drum up support for pro-Russian parties ahead of the elections.”

For Your Ears

How They Made Us Doubt Everything is a BBC podcast series hosted by Peter Pomerentsev that dives into the tactics of disinformation. For example, instead of disputing the facts about cigarettes and cancer, Big Tobacco tried to instill doubt about the facts. It is a playbook that was later used to deny climate change and delay action. Listen here

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The Atlantic. How Memes Led to an Insurrection

In a forthcoming book, Joan Donovan, Emily Dreyfuss and Brian Friedberg explore how memes are weaponized to spread disinformation. This excerpt provides some insight to what we might expect.

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