COVID-19 Conspiracies: Trends in Italy, France, and Spain
Yesterday, we released a blog-post contextualising the emergence of COVID-19 conspiracies. We identified three major narratives drawn from our analysis of the disinformation ecosystems in Italy, France, and Spain:
- The origins of the virus;
- The cures and medical treatments for the virus;
- The instrumental use of the virus to push secret agendas.
Most of these arguments are old news (e.g. deep state scares, anti-Semitism or anti-vaxxers), which are re-framed under the new COVID-19 guise. In this way, ageless assumptions are simply retrieved and adapted to suit current events.
Adding the D to ABC
Released last year, Camille François’ A Disinformation ABC framework is a key tool for identifying and assessing information operations. By looking at the Actors, Behaviours, and Content behind an operation, the framework affords a clear model for how to design counter-disinformation efforts. Yet in a piece for Brookings Institution, our very own Alexandre Alaphilippe believes we need to add a D, for information Distribution. The ABC focus “doesn’t take into account the way structural factors inform disinformation campaigns,” writes Alexandre. In this view, “the way a digital platform is structured shapes and constrains how information is distributed and the kind of reach it will have”. Taking a more structural look at disinformation needs to be paired with greater transparency on information distribution. It is hoped that adding this D to the ABC framework will stimulate “deeper research and foster a better understanding of disinformation”.
Platforms vs. the Infodemic
Last week, The Markup released an investigation detailing how it had managed to advertise a post on Facebook targeting people interested in “pseudoscience”. The ad was approved by Facebook, and according to its Ad Portal, this audience contained 78 million users. In an effort to keep up its response to the infodemic, Facebook later removed this targeting option following the investigation “to prevent potential abuse in ads”. Around the same time, YouTube announced that it would ban “medically unsubstantiated content”.
- Tracking chloroquine misinformation: How an unproven COVID-19 treatment ended up being endorsed by Trump: ABC News’ reportage looks at the factors and events that elevated the promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.
- According to Foreign Policy, democracies can’t blame Putin for their disinformation problem. The author notes how this narrow focus on foreign influence ignores the damage done by domestic disinformation and can undermine the search for solutions to disinformation.
- Combating the disinfodemic: Working for truth in the time of COVID-19 — We have contributed to two UNESCO policy briefs that offer critical insights into the fast-growing COVID-19-related disinformation that is impeding access to trustworthy sources and reliable information.
- Graphika has released a preliminary analysis of the global online conversation around the COVID-19 pandemic in January, February, and March. TechCrunch provides a concise summary of it.
- The UK’s Ofcom has looked into British society’s COVID-19 news consumption patterns and their attitudes towards COVID-19 (dis)information.
Events and Announcements
- Together with the Center for Democracy & Technology and other organisations, we signed an open letter to ask online platforms to keep track of the content they are removing during the COVID-19 pandemic, so that it can be made available to researchers to study how online information affects public health.
- A call for contributions to an edited book on “how the media framed (dis)information about food security during the coronavirus”. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
- Demos has launched its Good Web Project that seeks to ensure that the future of the internet is compatible with liberal democracy.
- Reuters Institute has set up a seminar series on various topics, ranging from fact-checking to covering crises.
- 28 April, 14:00 CEST @ DFRLab webinar – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania: How the COVID-19 crisis changed the information environment in the Baltics.
- 30 April, 11:00 ET @ First Draft webinar – Reporting on Coronavirus: Monitoring TikTok.
- 21 May, 10:00 CEST @ Luiss Data Lab workshop – Truth is the first vaccination! Workshop of e-literacy against disinformation about Covid-19 in Europe.
- Reuters Institute is looking for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow.
- The Hybrid CoE is hiring a Coordinator for its Research & Analysis function.
- EDRi is looking for a Communications and Media Manager.
Do you have suggestions?
We are looking to update and improve the content in our online repository of all things disinformation related. If you have any suggestions or comments, please reach out to us via this link.