Debunk EU: Kremlin-controlled media accuses West of deliberately discrediting Sputnik V

With the introduction of coronavirus vaccination in many countries in December, Kremlin-backed media have risen allegations that compulsory vaccination violates human rights, and that the West is deliberately seeking to compromise Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

On December 1-31, Debunk EU analysts examined 524 articles with false / false information in English, Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian and Polish from 73 sources. This content had a potential of 434.9 million. contact audience, writes the press release.

According to the study, the largest influx of disinformation was caused by two groups of articles. The first focused on a warning from the Russian Ministry of Defense about a false communication campaign allegedly being carried out by foreign countries against the Russian vaccine against COVID-19. A day later, a new wave emerged after the news that toothpaste and rinsing fluid were 99.9 percent. effectiveness in fighting coronavirus. Most of the articles based on these posts were written in Russian.

According to Laima Venclauskienė, Chief Analyst at Debunk EU, the study found that the second wave of the pandemic and the introduction of stricter restrictions led to more active reports of countries’ failure to combat COVID-19. “However, with the launch of mass vaccination of the population in the world, vaccination-related narratives, such as vaccines have not been properly tested and The West is seeking to discredit Russian and Chinese vaccines“The analyst said.”

Debunk EU schedule / Dynamics of misinformation about COVID-19 in December 2020

The latter message reached as much as 93.4 million during the IP. contact audience. The biggest wave of articles was caused by the already mentioned Russian Ministry of Defense on December 11. a statement was issued on the alleged desire of Western states to prevent the success of Sputnik V. The ministry’s report continued to be disseminated through major Russian news channels, alleging “false witness statements” about the “Russian vaccine threat” and “spreading lies about the Russian military’s refusal to vaccinate.”

The story of the foreign campaign was supplemented by the opinion of Igor Korotchenko, an expert often quoted in the Kremlin-backed press. He confirmed the links between the West’s attempt to discredit Sputnik V and the actions of NATO members to limit Russia’s power. “This is one of the examples when an expert’s opinion is used to confirm false statements, in this case – about sabotage organized by Western countries, NATO involvement in the alleged campaign,” L. Venclauskienė noted.

This story was disseminated in various languages ​​through the Sputnik portals. True, the statement was unmasked by the EUvsDisinfo initiative, the ministry’s statement was just part of a disinformation campaign aimed at promoting the Russian vaccine and discrediting Westerners. These measures were taken when Sputnik V was criticized for insufficient testing.

The Kremlin-controlled media has been using narrative for some time countries fail to fight COVID-19. According to L. Venclauskienė, by repeating false / misleading statements, an attempt is made to assert that the Baltic states had privileges in the Soviet Union, and it was the legacy of the Soviet system that allowed Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to survive after its collapse.

Debunk EU Schedule / Sources of Disinformation on COVID-19 by Articles December 2020

Debunk EU Schedule / Sources of Disinformation on COVID-19 by Articles December 2020

“For example, one of the articles states that the Baltic countries have coped so successfully with the first wave of the virus simply because their current health care systems are still based on the Soviet legacy. It is true that similar articles never write about the corruption that was widespread at that time, the lack of hygiene and the necessary equipment in hospitals, and the inefficiency of the system in general, ”said the analyst.

Another popular narrative was spotted in December – COVID-19 restrictions violate human rights. The articles that spread this message reached a potential of 79.2 million. contact audience. According to L.Venclauskienė, this was influenced by the fact that these publications were mostly distributed in English through the RT portal, which has a very large audience. “In this case, the Kremlin’s propaganda tactics were used to undermine Western democracies and their values, saying ‘equality’ and ‘freedom of speech’ exist only on paper.”

With the increasing approval of vaccines, the topic of vaccine reliability has also been actively exploited to disseminate misinformation about COVID-19. One of the main messages during the study period was that vaccines are said to be developed without strict testing requirements. One article in the Debunk EU states that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility, that coronavirus is an artificial disease, a biological weapon developed by US scientists, and that the World Bank has predicted a pandemic period until 2025.

“All of these allegations have been unmasked by various fact-finding organizations. However, the very fact that such articles are spreading shows that conspiracy theories are deeply rooted in some parts of society. This can be explained by the fact that belief in these theories gives a sense of community, especially now, when the countries introduce universal quarantine and encourage them to keep their distance, ”said L. Venclauskienė.

Another vaccine – related message observed during the study period was the government will force people to be vaccinated against their will. According to the study, 16 mln. the narrative that reached a potential audience spread most in Poland. “The articles state that the country’s government is looking for ways to force people to get vaccinated, removing those who do not want to do so from public life, reducing their career prospects, preventing them from traveling, etc.

There are experts who believe that skepticism about vaccines in the former Eastern bloc countries may have been caused by the legacy of the communist regime. People don’t want to be vaccinated because that’s the government’s order, which is reminiscent of the former regimes, “said the head of Debunk EU. analyst.

Debunk EU Schedule / Sources of misinformation about COVID-19 by availability in December 2020

Debunk EU Schedule / Sources of misinformation about COVID-19 by availability in December 2020

According to her, in order to get readers’ emotions, such articles do not avoid sharp concepts, such as the exclusion of vaccination in society compared to apartheid, the use of links with Nazi Germany, that vaccination passports will become proof of belonging to the “Aryan race”.

In December, false / misleading information about COVID-19 was most actively disseminated in the Baltics by the Kremlin-controlled press, both openly linked to Russian media (Sputnik and Baltnews in all three countries) and indirectly (e.g.

The misinformation about the COVID-19 study was conducted by a group of Debunk EU analysts: chief. analyst in Lithuania L.Venclauskienė, chief. analyst in Estonia Enel Ehrenhaft, chief. analyst in Latvia Kristine Skujina-Troksa and chief. analyst in Poland Magdalena Wilczyńska.

Data for the organization’s research is collected using the Debunk EU platform, as well as CrowdTangle (a Facebook-owned tool that tracks public content interactions from Facebook pages and groups, verified profiles, Instagram accounts, and Reddit pages). “). The Truly Media platform, designed to help journalists check digital content, and TruthNest, Twitter’s data analysis platform, were also used.

Debunk EU is an initiative that brings together members of the public, the media and the state to fight fake news that is confusing and undermines confidence in the country. The initiative has received the attention and funding of Google, the world’s largest search engine, as well as media giants such as The Financial Times and Deutsche Welle. The organization has presented its activities in 17 countries, including the USA, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Serbia.

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