Join us on the 9th April at 16:00 CET for a webinar where we will present our latest investigation: Africa24: How an Africa-based network built fake media and clickbait health scams for profit.
During this session, we will delve deeper into how the network uses classic disinformation techniques and finances itself through syndicating RT and Sputnik content and spreading health misinformation. In view of this, the network has increasingly utilised the coronavirus pandemic to its advantage by propagating coronavirus misinformation for clickbait purposes. REGISTER HERE.
Coronavirus Resource Hub
We have set up a coronavirus resource hub dedicated to gathering information on the latest developments, commentary, and research vis à vis the coronavirus infodemic. Please drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org in case you have something to share with us.
Online platforms vs. the infodemic
We have released a blog post providing a comprehensive overview of actions and policies implemented by online platforms to curb the infodemic. According to Politico’s Mark Scott, these measures signify how the platforms ought to be treated as public utilities complete with appropriate oversight. Yet, Wired ponders on whether the coronavirus may have killed the techlash that preceded the pandemic. Perhaps in the same vein as Scott, Dr. Joan Donovan for MIT Technology Review writes how online platforms could fight the infodemic by, for example, working with governments to create emergency alert systems to notify users of critical information in times of crisis. Moreover, the Center for Humane Technology explains how tech can stand up for humanity by utilising their power to persuade people to stay at home.
Chloroquine as a cure for the coronavirus?
Looking at the narratives surrounding the infodemic, one particularly stands out for its global prevalence – the claim that the antimalarial drug chloroquine can cure the coronavirus. At present, there’s a plethora of misinformation surrounding chloroquine as highlighted in the Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s Covid-19 Disinformation Briefing. The jury is still out on chloroquine’s ability to cure the coronavirus, but President Trump’s claim that chloroquine is “100% effective” has stimulated global hoarding and overdoses, even resulting in one death. This also hasn’t stopped Fox News from propagating the drug’s effectiveness. Buzzfeed rightly warns about the real consequences of this misinformation in that false drug hopes might take the brakes off social distancing too early. Amongst all the confusion and panic, the best course of action is to listen to the experts.
- In cooperation with Bellingcat, Newsy details exactly how the coronavirus disinformation ecosystem works in a new video. Bellingcat theorises four categories of coronavirus disinformation: generic, credible sources (both intentionally and unintentionally) sharing disinformation, fake sources posing as credible sources sharing disinformation, and profiters.
- In light of the abundance of coronavirus misinformation circulating on WhatApp worldwide, Mother Jones explains why it’s so hard to stop the growth of misinformation on the messaging app.
- How China built a Twitter propaganda machine then let it loose on the coronavirus: ProPublica details how it tracked more than 10,000 suspected fake Twitter accounts involved in a coordinated influence campaign with ties to the Chinese government. Among the strategies, one prominent Twitter user was offered a payment to promote a video of Wuhan’s battle against the coronavirus “for the public benefit”.
- The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has underscored the similarities between Chinese diplomats and Western fringe media in the coronavirus conspiracies they push. For instance, the idea that the coronavirus is a bioweapon created by the US – which was notably pushed by Chinese diplomats – was theorised by an organisation regularly featured by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
- Columbia Journalism Review has drawn attention to the curtailing of press freedom that is sweeping across the world amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In this context, governments are cracking down on journalists and implementing press restrictions all in the name of “combating fake news”.
- Anti-vaccination Facebook groups have turned their attention towards downplaying the coronavirus, writes Mother Jones. According to the short investigation, the feeds of these groups are flooded with content that promotes discredited conspiracy theories and criticises “police state” efforts to control the spread of the virus.
Events and Announcements
- Bellingcat has put together a list of resources for researchers investigating coronavirus disinformation.
- 1 April, 18:00 ET @ Data and Society webinar – Digital Security in Uncertain Times.
- 2 April, 11:00 ET @ First Draft webinar – Reporting on Coronavirus: Basic computational methods for tracking Coronavirus trends (the webinar will also be held in Spanish at 9:00 ET).
- 3 April, 13:00 CET @ European Values talk – How are China and Russia manipulating the global pandemic?