Democracy Research Institute (DRI) is monitoring messages and key trends of media sources that are spreading misinformation in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. For this purpose, DRI analyzed 102 articles by 15 online media and 435 posts published on 10 Facebook pages in September.
An aggressively pro-Russian and anti-Western disinformation campaign commenced on Facebook and other online platforms in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. Online sources kept spreading false information about the effectiveness of Russian vaccine, while creating conspiracy theories about about Microsoft founder Bill Gates and UNICEF at the same time.
Disinformation Campaign with Pro-Russian Messaging
Russian coronavirus vaccine "Sputnik V" was at the epicenter of the disinformation campaign by pro-Russian media sources such as Sputnik Georgia
, and Georgia and the World
. Articles published by them repeat Russian propaganda messages word for word and stress that the vaccine is effective and harmless. Reality, though, is different.
The Russian vaccine has yet to pass the most large-scale and important third stage of research. Vladmir Putin’s
speech about the vaccine’s effectiveness and passing all stages of research was met with skepticism by the research centers
, as well as by the director of the USA’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci.
According to them, the omission of third phase of research during the testing indicates high possibility of the vaccine being ineffective. “Sputnik V” was met with skepticism by Georgian experts as well, namely the Head of Lugar Research Center Paata Imnadze
and the Director of National Center for Disease Control and Public Health Amiran Gamkrelidze.
They pointed out that there are no large scale studies to back up the vaccine’s effectiveness. Information about the Russian vaccine was shared by pro-Russian facebook pages Stalin
and Eurasia – Information Agency.
Misinformation Campaign and Anti-Western Messaging
UNICEF and Microsoft founder Bill Gates were the main targets of the misinformation campaign messages spread in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Facebook page Saerto Gazeti
published an interview with academic Tina Topuria, where she voices some of the conspiracy theory claims, namely about forced vaccination of 7 billion people planned by Bill Gates. In reality, Bill Gates spoke about collaborative efforts making the vaccine accessable for 7 billion people
. In the same interview, she also claims that UNICEF is forcefully vaccinating children, which is false – UNICEF isn’t involved in the vaccinaion process, and will only lead the process of purchasing and delivering the coronavirus vaccine,
after it is officially registered. Levan Chachua spread the same information through his personal facebook page
. His post was shared by anti-Western facebook pages, such as Stalin
, Georgia First of All
, and Georgian Idea
. Georgia and the World
published an article containing analogical false information, which calls UNICEF “an organization of dubious reputation.“ The respondent from the article, Father Giorgi Razmadze considers UNICEF’s assistance to developing countries through the provision of vaccines to be a cheap bluff and claims it would better to buy the vaccine from Russia. All in all, 82 disinformative posts against UNICEF were made in 10 Facebook groups and 2 online platforms. These disinformative posts were shared 524 times and liked by 564 users.
A conspiracy theory against the masks started spreading in September as well. In the article “Masks – Preventon of Desease or a Mechanism to Enslave the People?” published on the online plaform tvalsazrisi.ge
, the mask is presented as a tool used to subjugate the masses. In reality, WHO
considers the masks to be the main weapon against the pandemic, as they protect healthy people from catching the virus, while minimizing the risk of infection spreading from those who have already caught it.
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The project is being implemented with financial help from Prodemos Fund in the framework of small grant contest “Careful! It’s Disinformation!” The material prepared in the framework of the project and the views expressed may not necessarily reflect the views of the donor organization.