Pandemic Disinformation Sinks In


April 22, 2020


The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a wave of disinformation—in addition to grinding the global economy to a halt and exacerbating geopolitical risks. Predata analytics measure engagement with Chinese, Russian, and Iranian disinformation revealing the most salient narratives worldwide. POLITICO recently highlighted some key findings in their coverage of the pandemic.

Early Focus on Bioweapons and Apocalypse Themes

Global attention to bioweapons and apocalyptic prophecies surged in mid-March as the United States and most European countries began to impose social distancing measures. Chinese, Russian, and Iranian government propaganda have all suggested that coronavirus may be a U.S. bioweapon, while Russian-backed outlets have amplified the idea that the pandemic is bringing about an apocalyptic societal collapse.

Evolving Narratives

As interest in bioweapons and apocalyptic prophecies waned, global attention increased to anti-vaccination themes and Chinese foreign investment programs.

Attention to anti-vaccination themes surged across several languages, including Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish as disinformation spread suggesting Bill Gates is seeking to use a coronavirus vaccine to implant people with microchips.

Chinese government propaganda has emphasized China’s foreign investment links as a means to provide more effective support to fight coronavirus than the United States or EU, which is likely driving attention to programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

In fact, after the U.S. Government announced it would be pulling funding for the WHO, attention to Chinese foreign investment reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic in English, French, German, Japanese, and Hindi.

Chinese Leadership Narrative Contested

Chinese government efforts to drive attention to its global leadership in foreign investment have not gone entirely unchecked. French- and Japanese-language attention to Western foreign aid programs spiked as well, suggesting U.S. and European counter-narratives may be resonating for those audiences.

We expect competition in the information space to escalate and new themes to emerge. As online audiences shift attention, Predata will continue to provide customers access to our suite of signals monitoring engagement with disinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Learn more about how Predata’s AI platform can help you stay on top of global emerging trends and impacts to be better prepared for what’s next.