DisinformationChinese, Russian COVID-19 Disinformation More Influential than Domestic European News Sources
Chinese, Russia, Turkish, and Iranian state-backed propaganda outlets disseminate COVID-19-related disinformation throughout Europe in French, German, and Spanish, and this professionally presented disinformation is generating greater engagement across Facebook and Twitter than prominent domestic news media such as Le Monde in France or El Pais in Spain. Russian outlets producing fake coronavirus content in French and German consistently emphasized weak democratic institutions and civil disorder in Europe.
News stories on coronavirus in French, German, and Spanish languages are being published by state-backed outlets from China, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, generating greater engagement across Facebook and Twitter than prominent domestic news media, according to new analysis from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford.
OII says its researchers have found that in some instances, French, German and Spanish language reporting from foreign state-backed outlets has greater impact than independent and established media in their respective countries, achieving a higher average engagement per article on Facebook and Twitter than major news outlets with larger distribution networks.
Outlets such as Russia Today (RT), producing French language coronavirus-related content, had five times as many engagements per shared article across Facebook and Twitter than prominent news source Le Monde. Similarly, state backed outlet China Radio International (CRI) produced coronavirus content published in Spanish and generated over four times as many engagements per shared article across social media channels as leading Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Co-author of the latest data memo, Professor Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford said: “State-backed media from China, Iran, Russia, and Turkey are targeting French, German, and Spanish-speaking social media users around the world with news on coronavirus.”
Katarina Rebello, Research Assistant, Oxford Internet Institute, added: “Many of these state-backed outlets blend reputable, fact-based reporting about the coronavirus with misleading or false information, which can lead to greater uncertainty among public audiences trying to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The researchers examined coronavirus coverage for key themes in state-backed narratives, finding significant variations by language and source country, specifically:
· Russian outlets producing coronavirus content in French and German consistently emphasized weak democratic institutions and civil disorder in Europe.
· Chinese and Turkish outlets producing Spanish content promoted their own countries global leadership in combating the pandemic.
· Russian and Iranian outlets generated polarizing content targeted at Latin America and Spanish speaking social media users in the United States.