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Majority Of Covid-19 Misinformation Traced To China, Russia And Trump, Study Finds

October 22nd, 2021 13:37

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.