Webinar Event: Disinformation & COVID-19 – A Convergence of Conspiracies, Hate, and Rogue Communications
Thursday, April 30, 2020 | Online Webinar
On April 30, The Soufan Center, in a special collaboration with The Soufan Group, hosted a discussion on Disinformation & COVID-19: A Convergence of Conspiracies, Hate, and Rogue Communications. The event explored how the global coronavirus pandemic has provided fertile ground for the weaponization of information by a range of actors, including rogue nations, non-state actors, organized criminal networks, and rogue individuals.?Experts explored the scale and specifics of the main coronavirus-related dis- and mis-information campaigns, and the implications and opportunities for countermeasures, policy, and practice. The event also drew upon the?themes and conclusions of the October 2019 Global Security Forum, organized by The Soufan Center, which addressed the geopolitical and security challenges posed by the proliferation of modern disinformation.
The webinar, hosted by Emerita Torres, Director of Policy Research and Programs at The Soufan Center, featured three panelists:
- Jason Blazakis, Senior Advisor and Consultant to The Soufan Group and Senior Research Fellow at The Soufan Center.
- Phil Cowdell, President of the Consulting Division at The Soufan Group.
- Zach Schwitzky, Co-Founder and CEO of Limbik.
Summary: The coronavirus pandemic has created an environment ripe for dis- and mis-information campaigns – to such an extent that what we are seeing today can be considered a ‘disinformation superhighway’ fueled by multiple ‘lanes’ of disinformation. The webinar touched upon the disparate narratives that are converging and feeding off each other into something quite unprecedented. These narratives run the gamut, including anti-5G, anti-vaccination, big state, big pharma, anti-immigrant, and anti-Chinese rhetoric. These campaigns often intersect with conspiracy theorists, extremist groups and rogue state communications, that are then repeated in the echo chambers of the internet. The event covered the basics – from terminology and vocabulary – to a review of the primary disinformation campaigns brewing around COVID-19. The event also touched upon solutions and policy efforts to address the challenge, specifically noting the main conclusions from the 2019 Global Security Forum, namely: the need for a comprehensive approach to countering disinformation; the need for digital literacy and exploring how to scale it; the need for public-private partnerships in this space; and, the need to better understand the social and psychological aspects of what triggers people to believe something which is true or not.