Identify Disinformation - Social media monitoring results (October-November, 2020)

Disinformation messages are a significant challenge for the World Health Organization and national health systems in the fight against the pandemic. The frequency of the spread of false news and conspiracy theories around the Covid-19 pandemic is so high in the online world that it creates an alternative reality. Consequently, it has become difficult to draw a line between propaganda and real story.

As observation shows, social media and other mass communications are a favorable platform for disinformation campaigns and propaganda. The present report reflects the results of the social media monitoring conducted by the Democracy Research Institute (DRI), analyzing the messages of media outlets spreading disinformation during the pandemic, from October to November 2020, and identifying key trends in their manipulative discourse. The analysis is based on data obtained from Facebook pages (statuses and photo-video visualization).

In total, the Democracy Research Institute identified 785 cases of disinformation, stigma and conspiracy theories relating to Covid-19 on 15 websites and 10 Facebook pages. The infodemic[1] filled with false news and conspiracy theories mainly concerned unsubstantiated methods of treatment for coronavirus and questions about the origin of the virus.

It can be said as the key finding that one of the main targets of the disinformation campaign is the Covid-19 experimental vaccine. This issue has been studied by the UK Government Communications Center (GCHQ). According to them, the main source of disinformation about Covid-19 vaccines is Russia.

An active pro-Russian campaign around Russian vaccine - "Sputnik V" was conducted in Georgia as well. Conspiracy theories of anti-Western content were also spread about the artificial creation of the virus by the United States in a laboratory and the use of the vaccine as a mechanism for controlling the world population by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The infodemic around the Covid-19 virus included disinformation about inaccurate methods of treatment, ways of transmission  and origin of the virus. There was also an active campaign to discredit the future vaccination process.

The media monitoring showed that the disinformation media campaign around the Covid-19 pandemic is of network nature and deliberately manipulates public opinion. The disinformation campaign in turn creates fabricated, manipulative content and causes significant harm, as it instills uncertainty and fear in society.


[1] An overabundance of information, accompanied by the spread of false news and conspiracy theories.