Wikipedia defines disinformation as “false or misleading information that is spread deliberately to deceive.” This information which may be misleading but can also be unintentional. Disinformation has been around before the COVID-19 pandemic but it has increased during the crisis.
During COVID-19, the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) developed a policy brief called Disinfodemic: Decipering COVID-19 disinformation. Disinfodemic has been used because it describes as deceptive information that fuels falsehoods about the pandemic. Below are the different types of disinformation formats:
- Emotive narrative constructs memes– This would consist of a message that has elements of truth with emotionally strong language with incomplete information. Often times this could be just a personal opinion.
- Fabricated websites and authoritative identities– These are sites which seem as if they are authoritative with polluted datasets, false sources. Sites in this category seem like they government or what seems to be a legitimate website producing news stories.
- Fraudulently altered, fabricated or decontextualised images and videos– These are used to create confusion and generalized distrust. The pictures or memes evoke strong emotions through viral memes or false stories.
- Disinformation infiltrators and orchestrated campaigns– These type of infiltrators are promoting discord in online communities. Key goals are to advance nationalistic groups and geopolitical agendas. There is also an element of phishing, collecting personal health data, false cures and trying to obtain money from spam. There can also be use of bots and trolls in their strategy.
The above techniques have been used in the following categories:
- Where Covid-19 originated from and how it spread.
- False and misleading statistics.
- Spreading of false economic and health impacts.
- Attacking journalists.
- Preposterous medical claims with no scientific backing.
- Information triggers panic buying to false claims.
- There is also the use of of events and situations which are one-sided and used for political gain.
In the next article, we will explore how countries, companies and organizations are using disinformation for their advantage.