Coronavirus Coverage by State-Backed English-Language News Sources

9 April 2020

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In this data memo, we examine the distribution of health-related news and information on social media of the English-language news outlets backed by the governments of China, Iran, Russia and Turkey. We measure the social distribution networks used on Twitter and Facebook and the levels of engagement with content related to the coronavirus pandemic. Over the two-week period of this study, we find that:

  • the state-backed English-language news outlets of China, Iran, Russia and Turkey have a substantial global audience, with content being shared across networks that have tens of millions of members who engage with the content millions of times;
  • they produce less content than other independent and global news sources, but can achieve as much as ten times the effective engagement on the material that they do produce;
  • they politicize health news and information by
    • criticizing democracies as corrupt and incompetent
    • praising their own global leadership in medical research and aid distribution, and
    • promoting conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus and the policy choices of international public health agencies.

Read the full memo here.

Read the data supplement here.

Jonathan Bright, Hubert Au, Hannah Bailey, Mona Elswah, Marcel Schliebs, Nahema Marchal, Christian Schwieter, Katarina Rebello & Philip N. Howard. “Coronavirus Coverage by State-Backed English-Language News Sources: Understanding Chinese, Iranian, Russian and Turkish Government Media.” Data Memo 2020.2. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda.

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