Read this article in Русский

One of the core elements of disinformation is persistence. Sticking to a few comfortable tropes makes lying easier. Lying repeatedly can create an impression of conviction and access to facts and sources that are not known to everyone. Repeat a lie from somewhere else, and you can claim that you have a source.

Lies are easier to remember if you stick to the same stories. Professional journalists need to check facts, corroborate data, find sources. Disinformation operatives just need to stick to a few handy storylines, plots, narratives and repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.

The very first case of disinformation on the current COVID-19 was a story from Russian state-owned Sputnik, claiming that the strange new virus in China was “probably made in NATO labs”. To date, Russian state media, Russian oligarch media, international conspiracy theory sites and many more have repeated this claim at least 20 times. This week we have found it here and here in Spanish on a site based in illegally-annexed Crimea, and here, on sites in Russian.

Comfortable Old Claims

The trope “The West/Europe/US is dead” is another comfortable old claim that, with some variations, pro-Kremlin media have been using ever since Soviet times. This week, pro-Kremlin outlets have continued tirelessly predicting, or stating, the demise of the European Union, the Schengen Zone, Brussels and Europe’s role in the world.

A very concrete example of repetitive lying is the claim that Poland stopped Russian aircraft loaded with supplies for Italy from using Polish airspace. This week we see it here and here, in state-owned Russian media in Russian and Italian. When this claim was published it had already been debunked by the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, suggesting disciplinary measures against a senator who spread the claim.

The Echo-Chamber of Disinformation

The pro-Kremlin disinformation operation can be divided into five distinct branches – three of them present in this week’s caseload of disinformation:

The two other categories function as multipliers and sources. A large proportion of the content of the above-mentioned sites is shared with, or brought to, the following types of sites:

  • Sites registered outside Russia and with no apparent ties to Russian state or oligarch structures, but devoted mainly to Russian topics and with an openly pro-Kremlin agenda: e.g., Russia-Insider, Russian-Faith, The Duran, The Saker;
  • And sites registered outside Russia that support pro-Kremlin narratives while having no apparent ties to Russia, and also report on a wider range of issues: e.g., Global Research, Unz Review, Veterans Today, The Alt World, and more…

These sites create a kind of echo-chamber of disinformation. They share content and contributors, views, and narratives. Claims are repeated and adapted for new audiences.

The Cure to Cure all Cures

Disinformation is dangerous as it causes distrust in efforts to tackle the crisis. Researchers across the world are working around the clock developing tests, vaccines and treatments. No medical or public health authority claims to have the solution here and now.

But pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets have the answer: suggesting zinc is the silver bullet, the miracle cure. Or hydroxychloroquine! Or mefloquine! Or vitamin C! Or socialism!

Another recurring lie is the claim that only Russia (well, and China) is providing real help. This is simply not true, no matter how often the claim is repeated. More details on EU efforts to support member states, partners, and the world can be found here.

Usually we include a few “fun” cases in this overview. But the joke is getting old. It is not “fun” when the Belarusian opposition movement is accused of deliberately spreading COVID-19 as part of a scheme to exterminate the Belarusian nation. It is not fun now, and it was not fun the first time the claim appeared.

Old jokes are no more fun than old disinformation.

Wash your hands; respect the quarantine requirements. Take care of each other!


related disinfo cases

08.03.2020
Vesti FM - YouTube
Belgium
27.03.2020
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
EU
05.04.2020
RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), aljadeed.tv, sarayanews.com, nabd.com, almarsad.co, voice-yemen.com, shamra, aqsasport.org, beirutnewscenter.com, hadfnews.ps, alhadeel.net, elhmra.com, yemen-now.com, sahafahnet.net, bawabaa.org, libyanews.co, sst.sy, kol-masr.com, sada-ar.com, sahafah24, eg24hours.com, kachaf.com, albidda.net, akhbarlibya, bbcnews1.com, bbcnews1.com, akhbarlibya, bbcnews1.com, Head Topics, saadaonline.net, akhbarlibya, alarab.com, eshraag.com, eshraag.com
UK
06.04.2020
Katehon - English
China, US
01.04.2020
RT France
EU, Italy
31.03.2020
RT English
Italy, Russia
30.03.2020
News Front - English
US, Georgia
03.04.2020
Sputnik Italia
EU, Russia
05.04.2020
Rossia 24 - YouTube
Czech Republic, Russia
03.04.2020
Sputnik Italia
EU, Russia
18.03.2020
izvestia.ru
EU, Russia, Germany
21.03.2020
Sputnik Czech
Czech Republic
06.04.2020
News Front - YouTube, Russian
Ukraine
05.04.2020
Geopolitica.ru - English, Geopolitica.ru - Russian, Geopolitica.ru - Spanish, Castilian, Geopolitica.ru - Italian
EU, US
02.04.2020
flux.md
China, UK, US
06.04.2020
SouthFront - English
US
06.04.2020
SouthFront - English
Russia
30.03.2020
Sputnik Georgia
EU
02.04.2020
News Front - YouTube, Russian
EU, Russia
02.04.2020
Ukrainskoe Dosie @ Ukraina.ru - YouTube
Ukraine
26.03.2020
Bloknot Moldova, regnum.ru
EU, China, Moldova, Russia, US
24.03.2020
SouthFront - English
EU, Canada, US
02.04.2020
Pervyi kanal
Italy, Germany, France
31.03.2020
News Front - Spanish, Sputnik Spain
Uzbekistan, Armenia, China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia, US, Georgia
31.03.2020
Sputnik Italia, Sputnik Italia, Sputnik Armenia - Russian
EU, Italy, Germany
03.04.2020
Sputnik Italia
Italy, Russia
26.03.2020
RT English
US, Syria
01.04.2020
Sputnik Czech
EU, Cuba, China, Russia, US
01.04.2020
Sputnik Czech
EU
31.03.2020
Sputnik Czech
EU, Czech Republic
01.04.2020
Sputnik Czech
EU
30.03.2020
RT English
EU, China, US
28.03.2020
pl.rubaltic.ru
EU
31.03.2020
Sputnik Poland, Sputnik Poland
EU, Iran, US
31.03.2020
Sputnik Poland
EU, Italy, China, Russia
31.03.2020
Sputnik Czech
EU, Czech Republic
25.03.2020
RT English
US
05.04.2020
Sputnik Greece
Italy, Czech Republic, Serbia, Russia, Germany, France
03.04.2020
RT web Arabic, aljoumhouria, dearborn, alwatanvoice, al-vefagh, arabi21, jo24, jo24, alalamtv, hakaekonline, sarayanews, hakaekonline, elmarada, alwan.elwatannews, al-vefagh, aliwaa, alarabi, , alrakoba, alwan.elwatannews, tuniscope, factjo, yemenat, afrigatenews, aljarida, voice-yemen, array-alam, yemeninews, anbaalwatan, annabaa, albaladnews, elwatan.starware, watania, yemnews, znn-lb, ibb-press, arabicradio, albaosala, hournews, sahafahnet, al-marsd, lalaplus, turess, libanaujourdhui, yemennownews, maghress, , burathanews, hournews, sahafah24, yemen-now, arabstoday, sahafah24, freeposts, beiruttime-lb, alaraby-media, gulf365, orient , fibladi, athirpress, sahafah24, yemen-now, jadeedouna, iraqi, asdaapress, elwassat , eldjazaireldjadida, gulf365, awanmasr, egy, hourpress, fibladi, ela5bar, ertikaznews, libyanews, masralyoum, masralyoum, gulfstory, misr-alan, healthcarearabic, almaghribtoday, akwadon, iraqtoday, belbalady , tn24.ween, belbalady, albidda, arablifestyle, gulfeyes, emiratesvoice, saadaonline, saudipress, gulfeyes, khabarmaroc, hournews, albidda, hamrinnews, syria-24 , khabarmaroc, saudisalary, saadaonline, bbcnews1, alqubbahnews, hamrinnews, sportnewsps, sportnewsps, sportnewsps, lomazoma, eshraag, hamrinnews, pressbee, albidda, palestinetoday
Russia
28.03.2020
Sputnik Greece
Italy, Greece, Germany
02.04.2020
katehon, alme7war, RT web AR, alghad, worldnews-sy, almadar, albidda, akhbarlibya, elwehda,
EU, Moldova, Ukraine, Syria
25.03.2020
Sputnik Greece
Greece
04.04.2020
One World
US
31.03.2020
RT Spanish
EU
20.03.2020
RT Germany - YouTube
EU, Italy, Germany
28.03.2020
Sputnik Czech
Russia
02.04.2020
Tsargrad TV
EU, Italy, Germany, Spain
03.04.2020
strategic-culture.org
US
03.04.2020
fondsk.ru
US
02.04.2020
News agency Realist, voltairenet.org
US
01.04.2020
RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), RT Arabic - YouTube
Italy, Greece, Spain
02.04.2020
SouthFront - English
Russia
31.03.2020
News Front - Russian
EU, Ukraine
31.03.2020
RT Arabic - YouTube, RT Arabic (ar.rt.com)
EU, Italy
31.03.2020
RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), RT Arabic - YouTube
US
26.03.2020
RT English
US, France
24.03.2020
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Italy, Russia, Poland
01.04.2020
svpressa.ru
US
25.03.2020
RT English
EU, US
31.03.2020
RT English
New Zealand
31.03.2020
Oriental Review
EU, Italy, Russia, US
23.03.2020
Vitbich
Belarus, US
01.04.2020
riafan.ru
Russia
25.03.2020
News Front - Spanish
China
31.03.2020
News Front - Spanish
US
30.01.2020
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Italy, Russia
31.03.2020
News Front - Spanish
US
26.03.2020
Sputnik Arabic - (sptnkne.ws), New Hub
EU
25.03.2020
News Front - Spanish
US
23.03.2020
Sputnik Italia
Italy, Russia, Poland
24.03.2020
Sputnik France, News Front - French, RT France
Russia, Poland
21.03.2020
fondsk.ru, Katyusha
US
23.03.2020
Sputnik Belarus - Russian, ria.ru
Latvia, Russia, Ukraine
24.03.2020
Media Network Agency
EU, Moldova
17.03.2020
Sputnik Moldova, mesagerul.ro
Moldova
25.03.2020
News Front - Hungarian
China, Russia, US
21.03.2020
Katehon - English
China, UK
21.03.2020
Evrozona @ Vesti FM
Russia, Ukraine
21.03.2020
Katehon - English
China, US, France
20.03.2020
Sergey Mikheyev - YouTube
EU, Russia, US
23.03.2020
RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), lb.shafaqna.com
EU, Germany
18.03.2020
Krym-inform
Russia, Ukraine
19.03.2020
Sputnik Arabic - (sptnkne.ws)
US
22.03.2020
Sputnik Arabic - (sptnkne.ws), New Hub, albidda.net
Italy, Russia, Ukraine
23.03.2020
RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), RT Arabic - YouTube
Russia, US
21.03.2020
RT France - YouTube, RT France - YouTube, RT France - YouTube, Sputnik France, Sputnik France, News Front - French
EU, Russia, France
22.03.2020
RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), RT Arabic - YouTube
EU, Italy, Russia, US
18.03.2020
Pervyi kanal
Russia
22.03.2020
News Front - Hungarian
Ukraine
18.03.2020
RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), almayadeen, athrpress, manar.com, alwafd, Al-Bayader , watania.net, Maannews , jannahnews.com, manateq.net, egypt-today.com, arabstoday.net, Gulf 365, eldjazaireldjadida.com, albidda.net, lomazoma.com
China, US
23.03.2020
RT web Arabic, saadaonline, akhbarlibya, kol-masr, sada-ar, rtarab, shamra, almarsad, thawra, lebanon24,
Russia, Ukraine
18.03.2020
RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), RT Arabic (ar.rt.com), Facebook resource
China, France
13.03.2020
rubaltic.ru
Russia, Germany
15.03.2020
evening-kazan.ru, Bloknot Russia
Russia
18.03.2020
Sputnik web Arabic, skyiraq, mulhak, addiyarcomcarloscharlesnet, 3-arabi,yemenportal, neworientnews, al-ahd, sahafatak, kolalwatn, ahfad, albidda, bbcnews1, lomazoma, theworldnews
US
16.03.2020
Sputnik Azerbaijan - Russian
Italy
16.03.2020
Sputnik Azerbaijan - Russian
EU, Azerbaijan
17.03.2020
Sputnik Armenia - Russian
Russia
10.03.2020
Sputnik Moldova - Romanian
Romania, China, Moldova
19.03.2020
novorosinform.org
Russia
06.03.2020
Sputnik Arabic, Gulf Story, Arabi News Network, New Hub, Ana Yemeni
Russia, Ukraine
16.03.2020
RT web Arabic, almethaqnews, almarsad, sahafahn, sahafahnet, gulf365, kuwaitnews, libyanews, paltimesps, arabipress, bbcnews1, gulfeyes, nice-space, sada-ar, albidda, shamra, rtarab, akhbarlibya, saadaonline, abu-link, newhub, hamrinnews, sahafahn,
Russia, Ukraine