The COVID-19 outbreak that began in China has since evolved into a global pandemic, resulting in mass quarantines, lockdowns, accelerating fatalities, and an unprecedented global economic slowdown.
China in particular has been working in overdrive in recent weeks to alter the narrative on the rapidly evolving crisis, openly spreading false narratives and conspiracy theories, including that the virus may have originated in either Italy or as a biological weapon from the US. Yet China is not alone. As the European Union has warned, Russian disinformation about COVID-19 was also putting lives at risk. In addition to suppressing information about the virus’s spread in Russia, state media platform Sputnik promoted false narratives about the origins of coronavirus, speciously suggesting that it originated in Latvia, where Canada is leading NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.
Both countries have also been looking to implement narrative-changing moves in other ways too. China has recently sent “aid” shipments to several of those affected countries in Europe, such as Spain, Netherlands and Italy. Yet reports indicate some of these supplies have been defective. Meanwhile, Russia’s recent “aid” delivery to Italy – of which 80 percent was discovered to be “useless” according to a recent report – was clearly part of what the EU’s foreign policy chief has identified as a “struggle for influence through spinning and the politics of generosity.”
To shed light on these issues, MLI will host a webinar bringing together experts to answer key questions about this flood of disinformation in the COVID era. How are states looking to alter narratives amidst the crisis. What are their methods and have they changed? How can democracies look to mitigate and combat such narratives? What are the dangers of an authoritarian narrative? Why do democracies do a better job?
- Michael Weiss, Editor-at-Large, Daily Beast
- Suzanne Spaulding, Director of the Defending Democratic Institutions Project at Center for Strategic & International Studies
- Charles Burton, MLI Senior Fellow
- Marcus Kolga, MLI Senior Fellow