TILT Seminar: Stefania Ardito (LUISS University, Rome, Italy)
Cybersecurity, online disinformation, and the role of the digital platforms
Can online disinformation be considered a form of cyber risk?
The question is central to my research, which aims to explore the intricate relationship between cybersecurity and online disinformation. While online disinformation is a complex and interdisciplinary issue affecting both individuals and digital platforms, its intersection with cybersecurity remains underexplored.
By analyzing a range of risks, including cyber risk and systemic risk, the study seeks to determine whether online disinformation can be categorised as a distinctive special form of cyber risk, falling within the scope of the cybersecurity law. Beginning with an exploration of the definition and impact of online disinformation on freedom of expression and information, under Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter), the research will delve into the concept of systemic cyber risk leveraging scholars' reviews and technical concepts. To contribute in addressing this gap, my research analyses the effectiveness of the EU Digital Services Act (DSA) and the EU NIS 2 Directive in protecting both citizens' fundamental rights and digital platforms from the risks linked to online disinformation. Specifically, I will investigate whether the DSA (Article 34) can interact with the EU NIS 2 (Article 2) on systemic risks linked to online disinformation and digital platforms. The aim is to evaluate possible underexplored connections between the EU NIS 2 Directive and the DSA, facilitating the identification of necessary measures to safeguard the Network and Information Systems from online disinformation attacks and protect the freedom of expression of users in line with the Charter.
Online disinformation has garnered significant attention from the European Union, recognised as an emerging cyber risk by the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA). The rapid proliferation of online disinformation, coupled with the digitization and interconnection of critical sectors, has raised concerns about unexplored systemic vulnerabilities.
While social media platforms play a crucial role in facilitating freedom of expression and information, they also serve as conduits for the dissemination of online disinformation interfering with users' behaviors. Simultaneously, digital platforms are vulnerable to manipulation by malicious actors and experienced attacks in the entire platform system, especially during critical moments for democratic systems, such as elections, international crises, and public health matters.
Digital platforms are regulated as "important entities" under the EU NIS 2 Directive which requires Member States and companies to implement appropriate and proportional technical, operational, and organizational measures to safeguard the Network and Information Systems from incidents. However, very large online platforms (VLOPs) and search engines (VLOSEs) are also the primary focus of the DSA, which imposes due diligence obligations to mitigate systemic risks associated with online disinformation.
To support the research question, my study emphasizes that the connections between the two pieces of legislation remain little explored. Nevertheless, by analyzing different cyber risks linked with online disinformation and connected with both pieces of legislation, rather than treating them as belonging to two distinct categories, this analysis aims to explore the potential in cybersecurity law for countering online disinformation.
We are still in the early stages of understanding the implications of online disinformation for cybersecurity, emphasizing the urgent need for studies on the topic.
Stefania Ardito is a PhD researcher in Cybersecurity in a jointly program between Sapienza Università di Roma (Italy) and Luiss University (Italy); she is visiting TILT Law School for 10 months. Having specialized in international Law and EU law during her university years, she holds an LL.M. in International Organizations Law from Luiss University of Rome (2013) and she has broadened her education with a post graduate Master Universitario di secondo Livello in Cybersecurity (2021) obtained at Luiss University. Her PhD project in cybersecurity is about “Online disinformation and the role of the digital platforms”
Moderator: Prof. Eleni Kosta
Attendance is free.
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