We draw your attention to the Disinformation project.
Since February 2020 a small interdisciplinary team, The Disinformation Project, has been observing and analysing open source, publicly available data related to Covid-19 mis- and disinformation on social media, mainstream media, and in physical and other digital forms of information and knowledge dissemination.
Since 17 August 2021, when Aotearoa New Zealand’s Delta outbreak meant a shift into Alert Level 4 across the country, there has been a sharp increase in the popularity and intensity of Covid-19-specific disinformation and other forms of ‘dangerous speech’ and disinformation, related to far-right ideologies.
Over the past twelve weeks, The Disinformation Project monitored this material, observing key trends and analysing impact. This brief working paper introduces some of our key findings so far on the infodemic – around engagement, content, reception to the Covid-19 vaccine, language, approaches employed, and targeted groups.
Mis- and disinformation is transmitted within and across platforms, and often very rapidly reaching audiences in the tens of thousands. The Disinformation Project describes these complex phenomena as “ecologies” – systems and networks that mirror and migrate content, discourses, language, and values across different platforms to audiences, with significant online impact and growing offline consequences. For the purposes of our study we use the following definitions from Berentson-Shaw and Elliot:
• Misinformation: “false information that people didn’t create with the intent to hurt others”
• Disinformation: “false information created with the intention of harming a person, group, or organization, or even a company”
• Malinformation: “true information used with ill intent”
Since the return to Alert Level 4 settings across the country on 17 August 2021, there has been a sharp increase in the popularity and intensity of Covid-19 specific disinformation and other forms of ‘dangerous speech’ and disinformation, related to far-right ideologies. This intensification has included a number of key trends and observations: an increase of both posts and engagement across an ecology of platforms; a shift in reception to the Covid-19 vaccine from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine resistance; the use of memetic material and emotive testimonies; the intensification of language, and the normalisation of that intensification; the use and abuse of Māori motifs and symbols by Pākehā mis- and disinformation spreaders; and the targeting of minority groups and key public figures, particularly those who belong to some intersection of identity.
The ecologies and spread of mis- and disinformation point to a broader threat: that Covid-19 and vaccination are being used as a kind of Trojan Horse for norm-setting and norm-entrenchment of far-right ideologies in Aotearoa New Zealand. Such ideologies include, but are not limited to, ideas about gun control, anti-Māori sentiment, anti-LGBTQIA+, conservative ideals around family and family structure, misogyny, and anti-immigration. Mis- and disinformation and ‘dangerous speech’ pose significant threats
to social cohesion, freedom of expression, inclusion, and safety.
Below is a tag cloud (word cloud) generated from the above text:
Here are other Tag Clouds created for testing using words with a random number of occurrences in an Excel spreadsheet: