Facebook under the fact-checkers’ lens
In Kosovo, one of the main fact-checkers is Krypometri, which has been part of the online media outlet Kallxo.com since 2016. In 2018, Krypometri received Facebook’s approval to review content and rate its accuracy. Krypometri is now what is known as a “third party fact-checker” and is so far the only Meta collaborator in Kosovo. Krypometri is also part of the International Fact Checkers Network (IFCN), an organization that monitors fact-checking trends, provides training resources and a venue for collaboration for nearly 200 fact-checking organizations worldwide.
Categories of disinformation
There are six categories that can be reported through third-party fact-checkers:
-lacking context (when the content indirectly conveys a false claim),
-manipulated (when video, audio, or photographic material is altered in a way that can mislead the audience),
-partially false (when the publication has some inaccuracies in facts),
-fake (not based on facts),
-satire (when the material uses irony or exaggeration and may not be easily understood as such by the audience), and
-true (when there are no inaccuracies).
In the deep fake video a photo of Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti and the United States Ambassador to Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, was manipulated. In the fabricated video, Hovenier is seen telling Kurti that there will be consequences for the unjust arrests of Serbs in the north of Kosovo. Kurti responds to Hovenier, saying he will arrest Serbs regardless of whether or not they have committed crimes, to bring the north of the country under Kosovo’s control. Hovenier’s voice and accent sound similar to his real voice, but Prime Minister Kurti is given a British accent.
This video was shared during a period of tension in the Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo after the April 24 municipal elections.
Adea Beqaj, a senior official for NDI’s Information Integrity program, said that the purpose of this misinformation is to sow distrust.
“Kosovo’s Prime Minister and the American Ambassador were used and through a fabricated conversation an attempt was made to harm both parties. The context of this manipulation of information is important because it plays a role in destabilizing the country and deepening the ethnic divisions between Serbs and Albanians,” said Beqaj.
Messaging apps are more difficult to monitor because moderators in closed groups decide what is shared.
In Kosovo, Hibrid.info has debunked false news multiple times published on the channel BUNT. Combating disinformation on messaging app channels like Telegram is more challenging since fact-checkers can’t use social media monitoring tools that work on other platforms.
Twitter is less commonly used in Kosovo. According to data from the company Hallakate, Twitter had 102,000 users in Kosovo in July 2022. Despite having fewer users, political content shared on the platform is also spread on more popular social media platforms.
“If someone has posted something false on Twitter, whether it’s a politician or an influencer, you can easily find it reposted on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, by other media outlets and other people,” said Gashi from Kallxo.
The disinformation on Twitter is often spread through bots, which are used to spread disinformation and incite hatred. Bots, also known as “zombies” once a device has been infected, are computer programs that imitate human users. However, some bot-like activity is also carried out by individuals.
Bots often share and like each other’s messages and spread unverified or false claims to create an online atmosphere either for or against a specific idea or person.
Researcher Agon Maliqi exposed one such Twitter bot that was spreading nationalist narratives in both Kosovo and Serbia. “It’s time for Albania and Kosovo to merge and unite,” read a post on the profile Malcolm16991871, which had tagged American senators, including Democrats Chris Murphy and Jeanne Shaheen. However, as Maliqi showed, the same profile had also shared a post from the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), the political party of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.
SNS reportedly pays people to comment and distribute content online, either supportive of the SNS and Vučić or critical of SNS’s political opponents.
Both Krypometri and Hibrid.info deal with disinformation published on TikTok, but they say it’s difficult to monitor due to the high volume.