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:
- RT America
- News Front
- New Eastern Outlook Journal
- Global Research
- The Strategic Culture Foundation
- Fort Russ News
- One World Press
Following outlets are described as the principal China-linked disinformation sources:
- Xinhua News
- CCTV English
- Global Times
- China Daily
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.
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