‘Spreading like a virus’: inside the EU’s struggle to debunk Covid lies

Posted by on August 17, 2021 5:32 am
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Categories: Global Stories

Understaffed and underpowered, a Brussels taskforce tries to fight a fake news tide that threatens to undermine the union itself

In April 2020, near the start of the global pandemic, Felix Kartte was working 14-hour shifts as an EU policy officer, struggling to monitor a barrage of coronavirus-linked disinformation.

Articles claiming that the pandemic was a hoax, that it was caused by 5G, that it could be cured by hydroxychloroquine or alternative medicine were going viral across the continent – part of a global phenomenon the World Health Organization warned was becoming an “infodemic.” Kartte and colleagues in StratCom, the EU diplomatic service’s strategic communications division, could detect what they say were patterns of Covid-denier and anti-vaxxer disinformation linked to Russia and to a lesser extent China, being disseminated in several languages across Europe.

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