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Russia’s Covid-19 Disinformation Aimed At Destabilizing US While Chinese Effort Promotes China’s Reputation, Report Argues

June 1st, 2021 12:56

The RAND Cor­po­ra­tion, a US think tank, has pub­lished a study exam­in­ing Russ­ian and Chi­nese Covid-19-relat­ed ‘malign and sub­ver­sive infor­ma­tion efforts’ tar­get­ing US audi­ences in the first half of 2020. The study argues that while Rus­sia deployed media with wide-rang­ing ide­olo­gies and aimed to desta­bi­lize the Unit­ed States, Chi­na-linked mes­sag­ing was ide­o­log­i­cal­ly uni­form and aimed to pro­tect and enhance China’s own inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion. Accord­ing to the report’s key find­ings:

  • Both coun­tries dis­sem­i­nat­ed mes­sages through a wide vari­ety of chan­nels and plat­forms, includ­ing social media.
  • Both coun­tries attempt­ed to tar­nish the rep­u­ta­tion of the Unit­ed States by empha­siz­ing chal­lenges with its pan­dem­ic response and char­ac­ter­iz­ing U.S. sys­tems as inadequate.
  • Both coun­tries false­ly accused the Unit­ed States of devel­op­ing and inten­tion­al­ly spread­ing the virus.
  • The two coun­tries appeared to dif­fer in their prin­ci­pal goals for COVID-19-relat­ed infor­ma­tion efforts: Rus­sia aimed to desta­bi­lize the Unit­ed States; Chi­na aimed to pro­tect and enhance its own inter­na­tion­al reputation.
  • Both coun­tries mod­i­fied their COVID-19-relat­ed mes­sag­ing over time, focus­ing on con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the virus’s ori­gins and impacts from March 2020 to April 2020 and lat­er mov­ing to con­cen­trate on per­ceived U.S. fail­ure in respond­ing to the pandemic.
  • While Rus­sia deployed media with wide-rang­ing ide­olo­gies and a vari­ety of audi­ences, Chi­na-linked mes­sag­ing was ide­o­log­i­cal­ly uni­form, con­sis­tent across mul­ti­ple infor­ma­tion out­lets, and appeared to tar­get audi­ences that were less varied.

Read the full report here.

The report lists the fol­low­ing out­lets as part of the Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion ecosys­tem:

Fol­low­ing out­lets are described as the prin­ci­pal Chi­na-linked dis­in­for­ma­tion sources:

In March, we report­ed about a DFRLab/Associated Press study 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 virus’s out­break. The report argued that Chi­na, the US, Rus­sia, and Iran all were involved in spread­ing false rumors about the ori­gins of the virus and, pri­or­i­tiz­ing domes­tic audi­ences, “played a glob­al blame-game with­out any evi­dence to back up their accu­sa­tions” instead of engag­ing in mul­ti­lat­er­al coop­er­a­tion and shar­ing fact-based advice to the public.