Russian and Chinese “official and state-backed” actors are targeting audiences in the EU and its neighbourhood with misinformation and “conspiracy narratives” about COVID-19, according to a report from the European External Action Service’s StratCom division.
The report, which is expected to be published today and has been seen by POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook, states that Russian “official sources and state-controlled media and social media channels have been running a coordinated campaign … promoting false health information.” Particularly affected are “smaller media markets within and outside the EU” where “tech companies face lower incentives to take adequate counter-measures,” according to the report.
Misinformation emanating from China, appears to be aimed at improving the country’s image. “China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image. Both overt and covert tactics have been observed,” the report said.
The authors say that false information about the pandemic is already having an impact. “A growing body of evidence suggests that coronavirus related disinformation can have [a] direct impact on public health and security,” they wrote.
StratCom was set up to counter disinformation and strengthen the media environment.