Using a speck of misinformation, a mix of falsification and a sprinkle of dramatization can turn any type of a groundbreaking story into a newly baked propaganda tool.
This is not a new recipe. Governments typically use this technique of “news overcooking” to bend the political narrative their way. Media, if it does not follow the codex of truth, will abide by the will of their money-makers and mislead the population.
In light of the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the information space has been flooded with stories about the disease. Simultaneously, alongside helpful and reliable information, fake and misleading stories have been circulating in the media on a similar scale.
Considering the effect of the worldwide pandemic on everyone, the everyday flow of information has been overwhelmed. There are continuous stories about the illness. Even though there are a lot of helpful and reliable information sources, the fake ones still manage to frighten and mislead people.
Quite recently, Russia and China have spread a lot of conspiracy type fake news about Western plots and COVID-19 pandemic misinformation. A variety of theories in regard to COVID-19 has been popping up from every corner of Russian and Chinese media. As propaganda tends to spread fast among the masses, there is little hope of educating people who believed that type of thing.
Russian Propaganda and the Novel Coronavirus
According to an internal E.U. report prepared on March 16th 2020, the Russian propagandist media befuddled and startled people. It is sowing panic and providing misinformation. The report also states that it is in Moscow’s interests to undermine public trust in European healthcare systems. As per the Kremlin’s plan, this should render a response to the pandemic from a population more chaotic and troublesome.
As indicated through reports, journalists linked to the Kremlin and those networks that wrote about Syria or the Yellow Vests public protests have now started to circulate misinformation. They are spreading propaganda about COVID-19 in the German, Spanish, English, Italian, and French languages. Kremlin’s new tactics are to prove to the population that the misinformation comes from foreign news and that the pro-Russian media is often not the source of disinformation.
However, be that as it may, they look to both intensify the current disinformation. And add to its further course, which permits them conceivable deniability.
Moscow has already responded to the report of the European External Action Service. Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, stated that the allegations were unfounded. The report also highlighted the fact that China has been an active role player, too, and also got in on the act.
Falsification and news: China’s and Russia’s new tactics
Here are is a brief list of Russian news articles that spread little lies like flies.
- Moldovian Online News platform – Izborsky Club (????????? ????) posted an article titled “Sergey Glaziev: coronavirus – artificially created biological weapon,” with up to 7000 shares on social media.
- Russian website sputniknews.com with a story that got up to 11 000 shares on Facebook. It is titled “Scientists: coronavirus is a weapon of biological warfare.”
- Coronavirus, a weapon that fell from the sky for the United States in its fight against China? Another article from sputnik with up to 3 000 shares of Facebook.
- Sputnik News’ Armenian branch had another article. It is called “Coronavirus was created in a laboratory: military expert” with more than 1 500 shares on social media.
Most of the articles have an exciting narrative that all look the same. The message is that COVID-19 is a human creation, weaponized by the West.
China has been quite active in posting its bogus news. It also is adding some fire to the Russian tweets by actively sharing it. Lijian Zhao, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, for instance, retweeted a Russian article entitled “Covid-19: further evidence that the virus originated in the U.S.”
It ended up with up to 45 000 shares.
Meanwhile, the same article was eventually shared over 60 000 times on all active social media in Russia. Also, Russian disinformation blames specific countries and international actors for spreading the pandemic fake news. Even Vladimir Putin stated that during a conference on March 4th.
For the sake of the people: Will the narrative end?
The chaotic swirl of disinformation may never end. Propaganda has always been an undeniably strong manipulation tool in any government’s hands.
Unfortunately, it is only natural that the global pandemic generated more fertile ground to circulate disinformation. Russia has never been best friends with the West. As the tensions between China and the U.S. grow, utilizing panic and fear for selfish political goals seem to be the best tactic for both countries. Russia spreads the news, and China focuses on censorship. It shows censors the bad information, thus showing that the ruling party and its partners are reliable.
The natural environment is becoming more pollution-free and clean from human interaction, as people became home-prisoners. However, pollution of information spaces has become a new dangerous frontier.