Disinformation Report: Albania in 2023

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In a series of annual country reports, SEE Check gives a comprehensive overview of the disinformation landscape across the region.


This report is a contribution of the fact-checking organization Faktoje based in Tirana, Albania.

Faktoje was established in 2018 and it is a signatory of IFCN since  2020 and EFCSN since 2023; Meta’s Third party fact checking partner in Albania since July 2022, a member of various regional networks and initiatives, including the Anti-Disinformation Network for the Balkans (ADN-Balkans), and a partner of the SEE Check network from January 2023.

Faktoje has a multifaceted approach to the fight against disinformation, encompassing fact-checking expertise but also in-depth analyses, research and interviews with experts; strategic partnerships and active participation in regional events. Their efforts include the creation of a comprehensive database of reports that debunk disinformation, continuous monitoring of media outlets disseminating such narratives, conducting training sessions with focus groups/universities, and publishing studies that shed light on the prevalence of foreign  disinformation in the Western Balkans. 

The report is based on Faktoje’s direct experience in the areas of fact-checking, reporting, research and analysis. It reflects the newsroom’s viewpoint and emphasizes the events and phenomena that the fact-checker finds relevant for the overall information environment in the country.

Disinformation Topics and Narratives

Albania, a country navigating its way through democracy and development in the aftermath of a 45-year-long communist regime, continues to grapple with strong influence of political propaganda, often through disinformation. In the past, it was generated by a state machinery that centralized all power in one hand. Since the fall of communism, the means and methods have evolved and become more sophisticated, as it now comes from different sources in the entire political spectrum. 

During the 5 years of its operation, Faktoje identified an upward trend in pro-government propaganda in the government-affiliated media, often incorporating elements of disinformation.

Prominent disinformation narratives have been created around the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccination, some of which still linger, especially on social media platforms – for example, conspiracy theories about vaccines being a part of a plot to eradicate humanity were still being spread in 2023 (see 1, 2). 

Conspiracy theories about science and technology are noticeably on the rise in Albania. Prominent narratives include those denying global warming and human-driven climate change (1, 2, 3), or falsely claiming that causes of natural disasters lie in particular technologies like HAARP.

Disinformation about the conflict in Ukraine is also still significantly present. Some of it echoes Russian propaganda narratives, including those that justify the attack on Ukraine (1, 2), glorify Russia, or portray NATO or EU as a party in the conflict (1, 2, 3). 

Topics and events most fact-checked by Faktoje in 2023 were those related to Covid-19 pandemic (68 fact-checks), wars in Gaza (61) and Ukraine (50), misinformation narratives about Kosovo (46) and fraudulent schemes for the sale of supplements or medicaments, often advertised by fake doctors (35). Faktoje has also noted 21 cases of disinformation generated through artificial intelligence.

Actors Contributing to the Spread of Disinformation

To understand the influence of disinformation, it is important to understand the media landscape in Albania. Despite the emergence of media pluralism with the publication of the first independent private newspaper in 1991 and the subsequent proliferation of private media outlets, questions persist regarding the true freedom, impartiality and independence of the press. Concerns about media concentration and intertwining of business and political interests (given the dominance of four major media companies led by powerful entrepreneurs), lack of transparency and intimidation and poor working conditions for journalists, are repeatedly stressed by international organizations in various reports (see, for example, the report from Freedom House for 2023). The European Commission also repeatedly stresses that “…business and political interests continued to hamper media independence and the quality of journalism. Disinformation including smear campaigns are recurrent, especially in online media whose selfregulation needs to be ensured” (2022, 2023). 

Low levels of professional standards and financial resources, coupled with proliferation of online media in such circumstances (about 800 portals are active in Albania, based on the last annual report of EU Commision), contribute to low information integrity and vulnerability to disinformation in the country’s public sphere.  

In addition to these challenges, social media are another constant source of disinformation, especially conspiracy theories targeting international organizations (with a recent increasing focus on World Economic Forum and its founder Klaus Schwab) and/or propagating science denial narratives like “flat Earth”. Such content is often taken from foreign sources and translated or in other ways adjusted for the audience/users in Albania. In some cases, such posts seem to be disseminated in a coordinated manner between profiles and pages that strive to establish themselves as “influencers” by spreading conspiracy theories. Some of Faktoje’s debunks on these topics are available on these links (1, 2, 3).

Tactics and Techniques Used to Spread Disinformation

Various online hoaxes, like fake giveaways where scammers impersonate supermarket chains or other well-known brands (1, 2, 3, 4), or fraudulent schemes promoting fake cures, medical preparations and supplements (link), stand out in terms of information manipulation tactics they use to deceive users on social media. The “news items” used for such advertising either feature fake doctors, non-existent individuals, or reputable doctors who are unaware that their name or image is being used for marketing and fraudulent purposes. With these online frauds, on the one side there is a risk that individuals may be deceived into providing personal data, including bank account information; while on the other the products being sold also raise concerns about unregulated manufacturers and safety of these products.

Events Instigating the Spread of Disinformation

In 2023 there were several events that were targeted or followed by disinformation, from international conflicts to internal politics. 

The Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent attack on Gaza that started in October 2023 has produced a lot of false information, mostly in the form of misrepresented, manipulated or synthetic photos and videos, usually taken from foreign sites and spread by individuals and some portals (1, 2, 3, 4). While some of the debunked content has an explicit pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel tone, it mostly does not appear to be produced as a part of any coordinated campaign against either community, but is rather disseminated on social networks to gain as many clicks as possible.

The January arrest of Charles McGonigal, a former FBI special agent who worked in counterintelligence, has produced a lot of unverified speculations in the Albanian media, most notably about the supposed ties between Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Russia, coupled with questions about the potential investigation of Rama in the United States. McGonigal was accused and, in early 2024, sentenced for working with sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, but also for concealing a substantial loan from a former Albanian intelligence official and for not disclosing his contacts with Rama (1, 2, 3). Reporting about the case, Albanian portals often distorted facts from the lawsuit, while both sides of the political debate –  the governing party and the opposition – tried to leverage the case in their pre-election campaigns (see analysis of media reporting here: 1, 2, 3).

Ongoing tensions in northern Kosovo, with several incidents involving Kosovo police, KFOR, and Serbian protestors, culminated with the attack on the Banjskë Monastery in northern Mitrovica in October 2023, when a Kosovo police officer and three Serb gunmen were killed and several people were wounded. This and other events, amid developments on the ground and diplomatic tensions, were followed by extreme narratives in media from both sides, including sensational headlines and unverified information contributing to ethnic tensions, with Kosovo and Serbia each blaming the other for the situation. Additionally, narratives from Serbian media that amplify ethnic tensions between Albanians and Serbs (1, 2) are often copied and propagated in some Albanian media outlets as well, without any scrutiny or thorough analysis. In this context, a narrative of a possible war within the Western Balkans has been repeatedly used for clickbait and sensationalist reporting by the media. 

Antidisinformation Update

In April 2023, a regional conference titled Fact-checking week in the Western Balkans was held in Tirana, organised by Faktoje and the Dutch Embassy. The conference hosted members of the Anti-disinformation Network Hub, lead by Metamorphosis from North Macedonia and presented the key findings of a joint study from the hub’s six member organizations on the spread oif disinformation in the Western Balkans. 

In the same month, Faktoje organised the national competition in fact-checking, “Fatos Baxhaku”, in the honor of one of the most prominent Albanian journalists, and awarded the four best fact-checks that entered the competition. 

OSCE’s Annual Forum for Media Development was held in September 2023 in Tirana, with a focus on fact-checking. Two Faktoje’s journalists were awarded for their articles at the forum. 
In 2023 Faktoje also published a study “Gender-based disinformation in Albania: How the media shape attitudes towards gender roles” that delves into the intersection of disinformation and societal attitudes and contributes to the broader understanding of the multifaceted impact of disinformation. At the same time, it is worth noting that the Faktoje team, majority of which are women, continues to experience personal attacks and occasional harassment campaigns perpetrated on social networks but also on some TV shows (1, 2, 3), which culminated in the pre-election period of May 2023.

Legislation Overview

There is no legislation dealing with disinformation in Albania. 

In 2018, at government’s initiative, a defamation bill was drafted that gives the Albanian Media Authority and the Authority of Electronic and Postal Communications tools to address complaints regarding news websites, request retractions, impose fines of up to 1 million leke ($9,013.88) and suspend their operations. The draft  was criticized and contested on the grounds that it infringed upon freedom of expression, both by local media and independent and international institutions such as the European Commission, or the Venice Commission. 

The draft was passed in the Parliament in 2020, but did not enter into force, because the President of the Republic returned it to the Parliament for reconsideration. The law did not make it back to the Parliament’s agenda since, with the representatives of the governing majority stating that it will not be voted on again in its current form.

This report is published within the project “SEE Check Network – Fighting Disinformation and Misinformation Through a Network of Fact-checkers” funded by the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author(s), and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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