The coronavirus period increased resistance to misinformation


The coronavirus pandemic, which spread a lot of misinformation, half-truths and conspiracy theories in retrospect, has been an important period in raising people’s awareness of information manipulations. In two months, more data was written at the same time on information manipulations than in several previous years.

Knowledge of the dangers of false information and conspiracy theories and the ability to notice them reached the consciousness and attention of almost everyone within these two months.

These two coronavirus months gave rise to new counter-information initiatives, numerous articles, radio broadcasts, and podcasts, analyzes and reports, as well as video conferencing and an unprecedented number of discussions.

The following is a small selection of materials published during this period.

Delfi and launched a special project “False Information: Revealed“, which focuses on detecting and refuting false information. This is done both with articles published in the Delfi environment and as a podcast, of which two programs have been published so far.

The venture exposes both global and Estonia-related misinformation. For example, stories have already been published about the activities of 5G opponents in Estonia, online documentaries spreading conspiracy theories, as well as the activities of pro-Kremlin individuals on Facebook.

In May, the University of Tartu’s online magazine “Peegel” wrote about fake news and changes in the concept of false information, where Signe Ivask takes a look at the nature of false information and its changes over time.

At the end of May, ERR Innovator published an article featuring a study by Carnegie Mellon University on how people tend to accept a lie as a group.

In mid-May, Postimees published two stories about how right-wing extremists in Germany have taken control of coronavirus protests and how hate speech and propaganda are spreading in the shadow of the pandemic.

The interview with the creator of the satirical publication, published in Postimees at the end of April, is also noteworthy.

The NATO Strategic Communications Center in Riga held a series of videoconferences during the coronavirus period and published a full range of reports, all focusing on information manipulation as well as influence activities.

In April, a report was published on information manipulations on SMS platforms. In May, a second report on robotics was published, which deals with NATO-related information manipulations in Social Media environments in the Baltic nations and Poland. Several analyzes and video discussions of influence activity campaigns in Asia and the Balkans were also published.

The Center for European Policy Studies CEPA replaced its president in the spring and has now gained a new momentum. During the coronavirus period, the center published a number of reports, reviews and analyzes, as well as a number of video broadcasts and discussions. For example, a video interview with Kersti Kaljulaid was published at the beginning of May, in which the topics were combating false information, e-government services and governance, and cyber security. At the end of April, Thomas Kent published an analysis of the resistance to Russian information operations and how far to go in the retaliation. In mid-May, CEPA held a video conference on the global spread of populism and how to combat it. At the end of May, however, an article was published about the activities of online elves in the Czech Republic. An overview of Lithuania’s activities in support of Taiwan is also worth reading.

In early May, Brookings published a comprehensive overview of the use of encrypted messaging applications to spread propaganda.

At the end of April, an article was published on the website of the Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point about the contribution of the Baltic nations in identifying and analyzing hostile activities in Russia.

An exciting reading about coronavirus panic, its vaccine and the pharmaceutical business, which began to spread on the dark web, was published by DarkOwl, which focuses on dark web analysis.

A worthy analysis of how China spread coronavirus themed propaganda on Twitter through fake accounts and bots was published at the end of March by the investigative publication ProPublica.

Bellingcat, the flagship of investigative journalism, has devoted additional time to publishing new guidance materials in addition to research activities during the coronavirus period. For example, they have published instructions on how to use reverse image search in research, what tools sets to use to identify misinformation, or how to explore the TikTok environment.

In mid-May, the Civic Resilience Initiative (CRI) in Lithuania published a video discussion on tools sets and techniques for combating misinformation.

A noteworthy article about the coronavirus and false information about it was published in mid-May by ABC News’ blog FiveThirtyEight.


Photos: screenshots of the publications