Millions of fake posts about the new coronavirus are circulating on the world’s social media platforms these days, according to the latest European Commission data, as Russia is carrying out extensive disinformation work against EU countries, including Romania, during this period. To date, the European Commission has identified, through a website specialising in the detection of fake news, no less than 110 narratives (main themes) related to Covid-19, present in more than 2,700 “fake news” articles from sites close to Moscow.
The European Commission’s entire report on the coronavirus crisis can be read in full, in English, here.
In the UK, public opinion was shocked when gullible British citizens read on the internet that the new 5G technology was to blame for the spread of the coronavirus and set fire to the telecommunications poles of a large company, and attacked the employees on the street. The British government and telecom companies had to react to calm the spirits, assuring the population that there was no scientific evidence to attest to a link between 5G technology and any kind of virus.
The shockwave of this sudden epidemic of hatred of telecom companies emerged much better after it was discovered that at the other end of the line they were speaking russian.
Russia Today, the Kremlin’s media institution, has become a veritable platform for spreading 5G conspiracies even before the coronavirus outbreak. The New York Times has suggested that the Insistence that Kremlin media outlets support the idea of the “5G apocalypse” is part of a plan by Vladimir Putin to delay the spread of this technology in more developed countries than Russia, which is in danger of falling behind, technologically and economically.
Romania, “case 191” in the drawer with fake news
On the other side of Europe, in Romania, other citizens have been convinced that vitamin C is the miracle cure that heals you from Covid-19. Vitamin C administered intravenously would thus be a kind of super-aspirin of the poor, a mega-panacea easy to find and procure, but always carrotated by the treacherous and almighty Big Pharma industry.
The story of vitamin C in Romania is listed as “case 191”,on the website of the euvsdisinfo.eu,a tool of the European Commission specializedin detecting fake news coming from the East. “Patient zero”, in this case, was the Sputnik website in the Republic of Moldova.
The raino of false information is coming from the Russians. Moscow denies and blames everything on ‘anti-Russian obsession’
For some time, STRATCOM, the EU’s European External Action Service , has been pointing the finger at the Kremlin– an older customer of Western Europe – in terms of misinformation and operations involving the production of a lot of smoke and fog.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the European Commission’s accusations and said these allegations were unfounded and meaningless– stressing that the internal document in question does not contain specific examples and does not link with a specific press body.
“And we are talking about unfounded accusations, which in the current situation are probably the result of the anti-Russian obsession,” Peskov concluded.
What’s the ultimate goal of misinformation and fake news?
“What’s going on? The human rights system, the foundation of democracy, is being attacked,” says Romanian political analyst Cristian Pârvulescu.
“It’s a slogan that reproduces, that of the inability of democracies to fight the coronavirus. We have, on the one hand, the exemplary mobilization of China, which has managed to reduce the number of casualties. How many you have not heard in Romania to set an example, behold, China!”, states the political analyst.
“What matters is the decredibility of Western democratic institutions, the weakening of trust in European structures,” adds analyst Sorin Ionita.
Sorin Ionita believes that the Russian disinformation system is no longer a pyramidal one, which operates strictly, from top to bottom, at the behest of KGB generals. “It’s a pretty decentralized system. It also has numerous state actors, such as the entire state average, with numerous channels, from televisions to Sputnik, radio stations”.
In this way, the real beneficiaries become extremely difficult to detect and prove. The financing mechanism of propaganda and fake news made in Russia is extremely sophisticated.
How can we detect the ingredients of false information and conspiracy theories
Alina Bârgăoanu, an affiliated member of the European Centre of Excellence for Combating Hybrid Threats and a former expert at the European Commission’s Group for Combating Fake News, has identified three specific types of misinformation and states that the boundaries between them are difficult to draw.
“In the spectrum of informational disorder comes three principal manifestations: missinformation, disinformation and the third part, the most harmful, malinformation, in English. And in the Romanian language we should prepare to introduce this term, of “malformation”, after the example of “maltrata”” considers the Romanian specialist in fake news and misinformation.
Regarding the main topics of debate, Bârgăoanu identified three main narratives:
A first theme concerns the manufactured nature of the virus
The main idea is the criminal hand that invented Covid. “From here, the differences begin: the virus is either manufactured in the U.S., or in China, or in Israel. Then, the purposes for which it was escaped differ: it was launched with good intentions to impose a new world order, or to slow down the ageing process of the population. There is a common thread, but the interns differ,” says the specialist consulted by Digi24.ro.
The second great nation-like calup refers to wonder cures
So, in Romania, in addition to vitamin C, bicarbonate mixed with lemon, vinegar, salt water. “There are narratives that have also circulated on TV, on WhatsApp or Facebook messaging. As a parenthesis, here we still have vaccines discovered or stolen from Romania, or cheap medicines kept away, to fill Big Pharma accounts”, appreciates Alina Bârgăoanu.
The third narrative calup goes on the idea that it’s all a conspiracy
Basically, it’s all part of the mandatory vaccination agenda, an idea coupled, according to Bargăoanu, with previous anti-vaccination movements and the idea that it’s all a conspiracy against the traditional family and conservative values.
In addition to trolls, we also have the huge category of useful idiots.
“Useful idiots are also sincere,” says Sorin Ionita. “They believe in a message of sources of misinformation and propagate it out of conviction. That’s a category. But there are also those who propagate it interested. There are two categories: pragmatics and useful idiots. And the balance between them is shifting. Pragmatics immediately get in the way they feel the wind of power,” says analyst Sorin Ionita.
This kind of information warfare will continue. In some offices with padded doors, or simple apartment blocks, generals, trolls, pragmatists or simple idiots will continue to report victories, will convey orders or heavy words in the event of failure. The information, no matter how secret, is perene. That’s why the most important value for services is people. It’s a cliché that’s become so common place that we can hear it in any job interview. And the intelligence services do that: instead of information, they prefer to collect people. A collection of people. A source farm. Or trolls. Useful idiots or generals full of importance.