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New Study Assesses Responses to Russian and Chinese Information Operations around Covid-19

April 12th, 2022 16:39

The Cen­ter for Euro­pean Pol­i­cy Analy­sis (CEPA), a US think tank, has pub­lished an exten­sive study assess­ing respons­es to Russ­ian and Chi­nese infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions around Covid-19. The study argues that while sev­er­al ini­tia­tives by West­ern gov­ern­ments and dig­i­tal plat­forms have proven effec­tive, gaps still exist in coun­ter­ing Covid-19 dis­in­for­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da stem­ming from Rus­sia and Chi­na. Accord­ing to the CEPA study:

March 31, 2022, Rus­sia and Chi­na have cre­at­ed and ampli­fied dis­in­for­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da about COVID-19 world­wide to sow dis­trust and con­fu­sion and to reduce social cohe­sion among tar­get­ed audi­ences. The Unit­ed States (US) gov­ern­ment, the Euro­pean Union, and multi­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions have devel­oped a series of inter­ven­tions in response. These include expos­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion, pro­vid­ing cred­i­ble and author­i­ta­tive pub­lic health infor­ma­tion, impos­ing sanc­tions, invest­ing in demo­c­ra­t­ic resilience mea­sures, set­ting up COVID-19 dis­in­for­ma­tion task forces, address­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion through reg­u­la­to­ry mea­sures, coun­ter­ing emerg­ing threat nar­ra­tives from Rus­sia and Chi­na, and address­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in the infor­ma­tion and media envi­ron­ment. Dig­i­tal plat­forms, includ­ing Twit­ter, Meta, YouTube, and Tik­Tok, have stepped up to counter COVID-19 dis­in­for­ma­tion and mis­in­for­ma­tion via pol­i­cy pro­ce­dures, take­downs of inau­then­tic con­tent, addi­tion of new prod­uct fea­tures, and part­ner with civ­il soci­ety and multi­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide cred­i­ble and reli­able infor­ma­tion to glob­al audi­ences. In addi­tion, dig­i­tal plat­forms are address­ing COVID-19-relat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion and mis­in­for­ma­tion stem­ming from a vari­ety of state and non-state actors, includ­ing Chi­na and Russia.

Read the full study here.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report has exten­sive­ly cov­ered stud­ies exam­in­ing Covid-19-relat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion by Rus­sia, Chi­na, and oth­er state and non-state actors:

  • In March 2021, we report­ed on a research project exam­in­ing and com­par­ing the false nar­ra­tives about Covid-19’s ori­gins in Chi­na, the US, Rus­sia, and Iran dur­ing the first six months of the out­break. Accord­ing to this study, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ty was to shift the blame to geopo­lit­i­cal com­peti­tors and to por­tray itself as glob­al benev­o­lent pow­er. On the oth­er hand, Rus­sia used con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the virus’s ori­gins to fur­ther their geopo­lit­i­cal agen­das and push anti-US narratives.
  • In June 2021, we report­ed on a sim­i­lar RAND study exam­in­ing Russ­ian and Chi­nese Covid-19-relat­ed ‘malign and sub­ver­sive infor­ma­tion efforts’ tar­get­ing US audi­ences. The study found that while Rus­sia deployed media with wide-rang­ing ide­olo­gies and aimed to desta­bi­lize the Unit­ed States, Chi­na-linked mes­sag­ing was ide­o­log­i­cal­ly uni­form and sought to pro­tect and enhance China’s inter­na­tion­al reputation.
  • In Novem­ber 2021, we report­ed on a draft report by the Euro­pean Parliament’s spe­cial com­mit­tee against for­eign inter­fer­ence. The report said they have “wit­nessed ongo­ing inter­fer­ence and infor­ma­tion manip­u­la­tion cam­paigns direct­ed at all the mea­sures against the spread of COVID-19, includ­ing vac­ci­na­tion across the EU” on online plat­forms. The report iden­ti­fied Chi­na and Rus­sia as the pri­ma­ry influ­ence actors.

Recent GIOR report­ing on Russ­ian and Chi­nese infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions around Covid-19 has included:

  • In March, we report­ed on Russia’s his­to­ry of non­pro­lif­er­a­tion-relat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion, includ­ing imply­ing that Covid-19 is a US-devel­oped bioweapon.
  • In Feb­ru­ary, we report­ed that US offi­cials accused the con­ser­v­a­tive finan­cial web­site Zero Hedge of ampli­fy­ing Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da relat­ed to Covid-19.
  • In Feb­ru­ary, we report­ed that Chi­na had used pri­vate mar­ket­ing agen­cies to hire Eng­lish-speak­ing YouTube influ­encers to pro­mote pre-made videos insin­u­at­ing that Covid-19 orig­i­nat­ed in North America.