War in Ukraine and Disinformation Newsletter 12 May 2022
12 May 2022
The benefits of a diverse media diet and $6.8 million for anti-vaxxers
The COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter is prepared by the staff of the Programme on Democracy and Technology (DemTech) at Oxford University. We summarise the latest independent research and high-quality news reporting on the production and consumption of computational propaganda and campaigns to manipulate public understanding of the health crisis. The newsletter is edited by Dr Aliaksandr Herasimenka. Our newsletter is a two-minute read.
One of the major anti-vaccination organizations has more than doubled its revenue since the beginning of the pandemic. According to an investigation by the Associated Press, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s “anti-vaccine charity,” Children’s Health Defense raised $6.8 million in 2020. The investigation suggests that the charity has become “one of the most popular ‘alternative and natural medicine sites’ in the world” during the pandemic.
The increase in pandemic-related information has had a significant impact on the reach of climate change misinformation. A report by Logically, a fact-checking organisation, found that international events and government policy interventions caused spikes in engagement with climate change misinformation on social media.
A large network of fact-checking organizations has criticized YouTube for its response to the misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 80 organisations from around the world signed an open letter published by the International Fact-Checking Network. In the letter, YouTube was described as a platform that was “weaponized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others.”
Multiple cognitive factors explain why people believe in misinformation. According to a review published by Nature, practitioners should focus on pre-emptive, possibly repetitive countermeasures that anticipate the themes of future misinformation emerging online. This can help to tackle misleading information. People tend to spread less misinformation if they rely on diverse media use in their information diets. However, the factors that reduce the spread of misinformation heavily vary from country to country. These are the results of a survey-based study published in Information, Communication & Society. Governments worldwide increasingly rely on three types of measures to tackle COVID-related disinformation: those that focus on actors, means of dissemination, or content. These are the findings of a report on the response to disinformation in six European countries published by the Hague Program for Cyber Norms at the Leiden University. Report editors highlighted that the spread of COVID-related disinformation intensified the emergence of national and international institutions set-ups to address the issue.
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