Disinformation being spread by Russia27.05.2020
Russia is driving an online disinformation wave about the COVID-19 pandemic, say experts. Questions about the virus origin are driving conspiracy theories.
Some of the disinformation circulating online amounts to conspiracy theories about the virus origins — claims that it was invented in a lab or brought to China by U.S. soldiers, for example.
Some of it involves false experts reports that the virus could harm people, for example – that the handwashing doesn’t help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or that the virus doesn’t affect smokers.
“We’ve faced quite a significant uptick in misinformation generated by foreign state actors, particularly from Russia” told Canadian Philip Howard who heads the Oxford Internet Institute in UK.
“In fact, about 70 per cent of the misinformation from state-backed agencies around the world originates from Russia”. Last week, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh reported that roughly 45 per cent of tweets related to lifting pandemic restrictions were being posted by “bots” — autonomous programs presented as authentic online users — and mirrored messaging from Russia.
Stephanie Carvin, a former security analyst for the Canadian government who now teaches at Carleton University, said the pandemic is moving “from a war for survival to a war of ideas and a war of ideology.”
“There’s no question in my mind … I think that Russia is definitely trying to spread the idea that this was some kind of U.S. bioweapon,” she said.
“It’s cheap and easy for her to do. It is an issue that most people have been affected by and are interested in”.
Russia is promoting the narrative that democracies are failing and lack the capacity or will to fight the pandemic, while claiming that they are doing a better job at searching for a cure and helping other countries with their pandemic measures.
Russia has years-old social media accounts that tend to post about things like soap operas or soccer scores — until they’re needed to push out political messages.
“The thing that’s really surprised us is the volume of content that this government produces in English,” told Philip Howard. “So at the moment, Russians can reach almost a half of billion social media user accounts a week with English language content that is across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit.”
Today Kremlin-controlled media outlets appear to be trying to prolong the pandemic outside of Russia. “Tons of false information that’s never been corrected and is still online today, being put out by the Russians.” And what do the Russians do? The Russian government says it is western countries that are spreading disinformation.
“By spreading falsehoods, gossip and fakes, some biased experts are doing self-promotion through blaming Russia for all the world’s calamities, including COVID-19,” the Russian Embassy’s press office said in a statement.
especially for International Center for Countering Russian Propaganda