(Editor's note: The EU's East Stratcom Task Force has been successfully monitoring and reporting on disinformation since 2015 - this is a repost of an article which can be found here)
494 coronavirus-related cases spreading disinformation and collected at EUvsDisinfo database received 1,152,270 likes, shares and comments on different social media platforms
While some politicians and officials have claimed that there is no such thing as pro-Kremlin disinformation and thus that there has been no disinformation about the coronavirus, the numbers paint a different picture.
As of 19 May, The EUvsDisinfo database has a total of 8508 disinformation cases, of which 494 are related to conspiracies and false information on the coronavirus. The coronavirus cases were based on 1608 URLs, which we traced and analysed using media analysis tool BuzzSumo
The article with the most engagements was published on Sputnik Italian, receiving 112,800 likes, shares and comments on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Reddit. It falsely claimed that Poland did not allow Russian aircraft carrying humanitarian aid and a team of medical experts to Italy into its airspace.
In second place, with 94,000 engagements, we find an article fuelled by conspiracy theories and published by orientalreview.org site in English. It falsely claims that the coronavirus is a fake pandemic; that Italy will leave the EU and that Trump and Putin have to stop the secret elites and bankers from dominating the world.
In third place with 68,800 engagements is an article published on Russian-language cont.ws claiming that the coronavirus was created artificially and is a biological weapon. This claim falls into the common category of pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about biological weapons and alleged US laboratories in Russia’s neighbourhood.
Fourth place belongs to Russian-language amediainfo.ru that was one of 18 outlets in our database which published an article claiming that a professor from Harvard University had been arrested for creating the coronavirus. In reality, the arrest had nothing to do with the coronavirus. The article received 57,400 engagements.
The last place in the top 5 belongs to RT Arabic for an article with 51,700 engagements spreading disinformation about the US being behind the coronavirus.
In addition to listing Sputnik and RT, the flagships of pro-Kremlin media, the top 5 also shows the variety of languages in which pro-Kremlin disinformation is spread. Among all coronavirus-related cases in our database, languages vary from Armenian to Arabic, from German to Georgian, and from Russian to Romanian, coming in to a total of 19
The power of the virus
Looking at the list of articles with most social media engagement it seems that some smaller outlets were able to capitalize quite effectively on the pandemic.
BuzzSumo’s data from the past year shows that for smaller outlets listed below, the articles with most engagement relate to the coronavirus. Also, the top-performing article received significantly more engagements than articles in the second or third place.