In a new paper for Communication and Smart Technologies, our team led by Dr. Jozef Michal Mintal mapped the back-end services that untrustworthy Czech and Slovak websites rely on and analysed how these services can be utilised to combat disinformation. Besides the involvement of our senior researchers professor Jaroslav Usiak and professor Karol Fabián, the team also consisted of our wonderful student reseach interns who helped with data collection, namely Anna Macko, Frantiska Pirosková, Marko Paľa and Pavlo Yakubets.
Collecting and analyzing data on top-level domain operators, domain name registrars, e-mail providers, web hosting providers, and utilized website tracking technologies of 150 untrustworthy Czech and Slovak websites, the paper provides a first-of-its-kind systematic mapping of the back-end infrastructural support sustaining such websites in the two countries.
The authors find that although there is a great geographical diversity in terms of the back-end service providers, the majority of them used by Czech and Slovak untrustworthy websites are locally based.
The authors go on to discuss what this finding potentially means for fighting disinformation.
First, some of the critical infrastructure of untrustworthy Czech and Slovak websites are under the direct jurisdiction of the Czech and Slovak governments, opening up potential avenues of regulation. Acknowledging the potential problems with this approach, the paper argues that many service providers utilized by the untrustworthy websites in the study already have Terms of Services that can be used against disinformation-spreading websites. Finally, the study also points to the possibly far-reaching implication of demonetization as an indirect tool against online disinformation.
The paper was presented by Mintal on ICOMTA 2021 in September.