Quantcast
Connect with us

Distorted Chinese, Russian virus news takes root in West: study

Published

on

Coronavirus misinformation spread by Russian and Chinese journalists is finding a bigger audience on social media in France and Germany than content from the European nations’ own premier news outlets, according to new research.

Whether it is distorted coverage or outright conspiracy theories, articles written in French and German by foreign state media are resonating widely on Facebook and Twitter, often with their origins unclear, the Oxford Internet Institute said in a report published on Monday.

ADVERTISEMENT

The institute, which is part of Oxford University, looked at content generated by leading media outlets from Russia and China, as well as from Iran and Turkey — all of which are state-controlled or closely aligned to regimes in power.

Its report comes as the US government imposes new restrictions on Chinese state media, and builds on previous research by the institute that laid bare the penetration of such foreign outlets in English-language markets.

In their French, German as well as Spanish output, state media groups have “politicized the coronavirus by criticizing Western democracies, praising their home countries, and promoting conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus”, the institute said.

“A majority of the content in these outlets is factually based. But what they have, especially if you look at the Russian outlets, is an agenda to discredit democratic countries,” Oxford researcher Jonathan Bright told AFP.

“The subtle weave in the overarching narrative is that democracy is on the verge of collapse.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The institute looked at output from Russia’s RT broadcaster and Sputnik news agency; China Global Television Network (CGTN), China Radio International (CRI) and Xinhua News Agency; plus foreign-language output from Iranian and Turkish networks.

It measured median engagement per shared article — how many times a user actively shares or likes an article on Facebook, or comments about it and retweets it on Twitter.

The study covered each outlet’s 20 most popular stories from May 18 to June 5.

ADVERTISEMENT

– What’s the source? –

French-language content from RT scored an average of 528 in user engagement on the two platforms, and 374 for Xinhua, compared to 105 for the newspaper Le Monde.

In German, RT articles scored 158 on Facebook and Twitter, against 90 for Der Spiegel.

ADVERTISEMENT

The institute’s previous study in April found that in English, heavily politicized news stories from the same state media groups could achieve as much as 10 times the level of user engagement as more sober sources such as the BBC.

Bright added: “A significant portion of social media is people consuming content that is directly funded by foreign governments, and it’s not very clear to the reader that that’s the case.”

Similar engagement levels showed in Spanish-language content, including from the Iranian state broadcaster’s service HispanTV, which the report said shares the Russian outlets’ promotion of “anti-US sentiments” for audiences in Latin America.

ADVERTISEMENT

Examples in French and German included heated coverage from the Russian outlets of the “gilets jaunes” protest movement in France, and the COVID-19 and ensuing economic crises in Europe.

The report also examined content in German, French and Spanish from Turkey’s TRT network, which it said focussed more on positive portrayals of the Turkish government’s actions against the pandemic.

In contrast, Russian, Chinese and Iranian media all promoted baseless theories, including that the US military unleashed the coronavirus, which originated late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The media organizations in question claim to offer a non-Western perspective on news and deny they are propagandists.

ADVERTISEMENT

Last week, China threatened to retaliate after four more of its media groups were reclassified as “foreign missions” in the United States.

The quartet joined CGTN, CRI and Xinhua, which were already designated by Washington as state-sponsored actors, rather than as media.

In Britain, RT has been fined for breaking rules on media impartiality.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron accused the Russian network of spreading “deceitful propaganda” during the 2017 presidential election.

ADVERTISEMENT


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Montana GOP ticket sidelined after exposure to COVID-positive Trump, Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle: report

Published

on

The Montana Republican Party is facing a crisis after multiple members of the ticket traveled to South Dakota for Donald Trump's rally and were potentially exposed to COVID-19.

"Montana gubernatorial candidate Rep. Greg Gianforte and his running mate, Kristen Juras, confirmed Saturday they will self-quarantine after Gianforte's wife, Susan, and Juras attended an event last week with Kimberly Guilfoyle, who has since tested positive for COVID-19," KBZK-TV reported Saturday.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

WATCH: Florida beachgoer pushes new conspiracy theory of how COVID-19 got to the United States

Published

on

On Saturday, a viral video showed Jacksonville, Florida attorney Dan Uhlfelder — famous for touring Florida's beaches in a Grim Reaper costume to protest lax COVID-19 safeguards — confronting a beachgoer.

The other man offered a novel conspiracy theory of how the virus spread to the United States: that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter were behind the whole thing.

"Biden and Hunter went over to China, and then brought it back," said the man.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Susan Collins’ July 4th tweet blew up in her face in spectacular fashion

Published

on

On Saturday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) tweeted her concern for small businesses in Maine that are suffering because the normal Fourth of July business has been suppressed by the coronavirus pandemic:

The Fourth of July is typically the height of Maine’s busy summer tourism season, but near-empty hotels, inns, B&Bs, and restaurants underscore the devastating effects the pandemic has had on many of our state’s small businesses and jobs.

— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) July 4, 2020

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image