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.