COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter 5 May 2021
5 May 2021
The regular COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter from the Programme on Democracy and Technology (DemTech) at the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, summarises the latest research on the production and consumption of computational propaganda, fake news, censorship, and campaigns, to manipulate public understanding of the health crisis.
1. The 2020 ‘Cyber Troops’ report from the Programme on Democracy and Technology highlights the recent trends of computational propaganda across 81 countries. In 2020 authoritarian countries like Russia, China and Iran capitalised on coronavirus disinformation to amplify anti-democratic narratives designed to undermine trust in health officials and government administrators.
2. A data memo by Yung Au et al. examines the infrastructural support for controversial COVID-19 websites. The report describes how firms up and down the technology stack profit from contentious COVID-19 websites, even after steps such as ad removals or content moderation.
3. A study by Andrew Chadwick et al. from Loughborough University divides people into six groups based on their media diet, and analyses whether they are likely to endorse or question vaccines online. The study emphasises the need for direct contact, through the post, workplace, or community structures, for people who otherwise don’t follow the news or public communication.
4. A study by Gordon Pennycook et al. from the University of Regina looks into the effect of warnings attached to news content by social media platforms. It shows that such warnings will increase the trust people place on news without such a label, even when they are from questionable sources.
5. A study by the Digital Forensic Research Lab and the Associated Press looks at social media in four countries – China, the United States, Russia and Iran – early in the pandemic. The governments of these countries accused each other of being the source of the virus, and these accusations weakened the trust in the policies to fight the coronavirus worldwide.
Sign up for the DemTech Newsletters on COVID-19 Misinformation and China Information Operations