China Information Operations Newsletter 18 August 2022
18 August 2022
Local Media and Religious Institutions are in the Focus of COVID-19 Misinformation Investigations
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.
78% of American adults believe or are “uncertain about” at least one false statement about COVID-19. These are the findings of a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The report also finds that“[p]eople’s trusted news sources are correlated with their belief in COVID-19 misinformation.” A Romanian Orthodox Bishop is under criminal investigation for spreading dangerous disinformation about COVID-19. According to The New York Times, less than half of Romanians are vaccinated despite widespread availability. Local media outlets have become “powerful conduits” of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in the US. According to The New York Times, vaccine misinformation in the local media can impact US vaccination rates, as Americans are “more likely to believe” what they read and hear from local news outlets.
The central focus of COVID-19 sceptic groups on social media is “a disagreement about the seriousness and threat of COVID-19 and public health measures to control COVID-19.” These are the findings of a study of Twitter content by Sam Martina and Samantha Vanderslott published in Vaccine. Social media networks where COVID-19 misinformation spreads are places where people tend to receive the same information through multiple sources and hear echoes of their own ideas. At the same time, popular users are not motivated by their established popularity to interact with others. These and other characteristics of misinformation-related networks on Twitter are presented in the study published by New Media & Society. Users are willing to engage in social correction behaviours to prevent COVID-19 misinformation spreading on messaging platforms. These are the findings of the study of WhatsApp use in Brazil published in Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The study also suggests that “WhatsApp users with lower levels of educational attainment and from younger age groups were less inclined to” respond and correct a sender or a group when exposed to misinformation.
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