The European Commission is reporting on a large EU-funded study on the impact of algorithms and bots on political discourse in Europe, which found that Covid-19 misinformation came chiefly from three sources: Russian media, Chinese media, and former US President Donald Trump. According to the European Commission:
Funded through a European Research Council (ERC) grant, the COMPROP (Computational Propaganda: Investigating the Impact of Algorithms and Bots on Political Discourse in Europe) project set out to investigate networks of automated social media accounts, and their role in shaping public opinion. Researchers led by principal investigator Philip Howard produced a codified definition of ‘junk news’ that referred to deliberately produced misleading, deceptive and incorrect propaganda purporting to be real news. The team then examined millions of posts on social media to see how these messages were produced and disseminated. Though initially focused on Twitter, the team at the University of Oxford’s Programme on Democracy and Technology found computational propaganda – algorithms put to work for a political agenda – on Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube, and even dating app Tinder. “We didn’t expect over the course of the project the problem would grow as bad as it did,” notes Howard. “We can see how some governments, lobbyists, the far right and white supremacists all use these to manipulate democracies.” The COMPROP project focused heavily on COVID misinformation, which Howard notes came chiefly from three sources: Russian media, Chinese media, and American president Donald Trump. While Trump’s disinformation was tied to domestic American politics, Russia and China pushed three broad themes intended for foreign audiences. “The first was that democracy can’t help us, elected leaders are too weak to make decisions,” says Howard. “The second message was that Russian or Chinese scientists were going to get the vaccine first, and the third was that Russia or China was leading on humanitarian assistance efforts.”
Read the rest here.
The Global Influence Operations Report has extensively covered Covid-19 disinformation by Chinese media, Russian media, and former US President Donald Trump.