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Pandemic fakes and war disinformation – what do they have in common?
Pandemic fakes and war disinformation – what do they have in common?
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, social media accounts, so far known for disinformation related to the pandemic, began spreading false content about the war.
In our analysis, we have collected selected examples of changes in the content published by actors spreading disinformation. The twists in the narratives they create are correlated in time with the concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. With the increasing risk of wars and actual aggression, these entities gradually redirected their message towards war disinformation, abandoning the provision of anti-vaccine content.
The narrative so far related to the pandemic and medical-related topics has been replaced with awakening fear of refugees, undermining the existence of war and presenting it as a global conspiracy and media creation.
In our analysis, we focused on four selected actors spreading disinformation:
- the GlosGminny.pl profile on Facebook,
- law firm Lega Artis’s blog,
- Facebook group We Do Not Vaccinate (Nie szczepimy się),
- a channel on the Telegram Messenger The News from Definitive Times (Wiadomości Czasów Ostatecznych).
All of the above disinformation channels published content related to the denial of the coronavirus pandemic (1, 2, 3, 4). Since Russia has unleashed the war in Ukraine, those public channels began publishing false content regarding the war (1, 2, 3, 4).
The war disinformation spread by these entities mainly concerns the following narratives:
- justifying the causes of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which aims to present the invasion as logically and morally justified, and to position Russia as a victim of the war, not its perpetrator,
- the alleged conspiracy of a global elite blamed for starting a war, to diminish Russia’s responsibility for the war,
- denying the war and presenting it as a media creation, which in turn diminishes the accurate picture of the war and the tragic situation of the Ukrainian civilian population,
- warfare presented as a plan to take control of humanity,
- disinformation regarding the ethnic origin of refugees, which aims to question the fact that genuine refugees from Ukraine come to Poland, and not economic migrants from foreign cultural circles,
- antagonizing refugees and fuelling social tensions through false claims about the alleged “privileging” of refugees from Ukraine and through conspiracy messages regarding allegedly planned population changes in Poland.
GlosGminny.pl – which can be translated as “local community’s voice” – is a Facebook profile that has about 120 thousand followers. This profile published disinformation posts during the pandemic. The fake news shared by this profile and verified by us can be found here.
Contrary to the description, the profile by no means deals with “the latest news from your region.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, it focused on spreading disinformation around this issue. The content published there suggested that the coronavirus pandemic is a medical experiment that serves for depopulation and is an organized program to take control over humanity.
Take control program
In addition, GlosGminy.pl shared an interview with Judy Mikovits in which false information about the coronavirus is duplicated. Also, they present the vaccination program and 5G technology as a plan to take over the remote control of humans, which we checked in this analysis.
This profile portrayed the pandemic as a planned depopulation operation. It shared a disinformative post from page 3 Dni Ciemności (3 Days of Darkness) linking to a piece of disinformation text we covered in this article.
The examples we have collected show that GłosGminny.pl focuses on sharing graphics and posts from other profiles to distort the picture of actual crises. The motivation behind these actions is most likely an attempt to create a belief about the prevailing global conspiracy. This conspiracy is supposed to be hidden by the elite and covered up by the media.
Change of the narrative
One of the first posts on the GlosGminny.pl profile was a graphic presenting the new TVP Info (Polish public television channel) program, entitled “Russian aggression against Ukraine” as a “new series.”
It aimed to present the Russian aggression as a “substitute topic”, which is supposed to arouse the audience’s fear, similar to the “plandemic and tweezers” before. The post was published on February 17, 2022.
Memes with Putin
The channel posted the meme with Putin on the same day. The President of Russia wakes up the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, saying that he learned from The Sun that Russia would attack Ukraine at night.
In the following days, the pandemic disinformation weakened, and in its place appeared new content on war and diplomatic relations.
Finding the guilty
On February 18, content blaming the United States of the “2014 coup in Ukraine” appeared on the profile. Two days later, on February 20, another post accused Germany of possible Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the war was presented as a product of the media.
In the following days, disinformation related to the pandemic was replaced almost with no exception by false information about the situation in Ukraine. The purpose of these actions is to distract us from the actual military activities of the Russian army and to distort the image of the war. In this case, aggression appears as a consequence of the actions of the governments of Germany or the USA. The authenticity of the war is also being questioned through suggesting that life in Ukraine has not changed.
War as a clash of elites
Those narratives focus on finding “potential guilty parties”, distorting the image of actual events and questioning the importance and essence of war.
The search for a conspiracy by the elites symmetrically divides responsibility for the war between both entities (Russia and Ukraine), even though the only aggressor is the Russian Federation.
Lego and Molotov cocktails
Another example of disinformation content shared by GlosGminny.pl is false information about Lego’s production of bricks in the shape of Molotov cocktails, accusing the company of getting rich during the war.
The bricks were produced by Citizen Brick, and the entire profit from sales was donated to help Ukraine (follow this link for more details). This disinformation campaign and other similar ones aim to lower confidence in entities that help Ukraine.
Lega Artis is a law firm’s website whose blog repeatedly duplicated false information. You can find disinformation content posted by them that we have verified at this link. Their Facebook profile is followed by 52 thousand users.
The examples of disinformation collected in this text show that Lega Artis’ activity focuses on creating false content on the “law firm’s blog” later published on the Facebook account. Legal activities of Lega Artis may aim to build the credibility of this entity, and legal advice is only part of the content provided.
Contrary to the GłosyGminny.pl profile, Lega Artis does not provide pictures, memes, or videos. Building a discourse by Lega Artis in this style proves an attempt to convince the audience to use an expert and reliable medium.
Lega Artis websites published false content during the pandemic suggesting that vaccination against coronavirus weakens immunity, carries proteins that infect unvaccinated people, disrupts menstruation, and leads to infertility.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
The law firm’s blog is known for spreading fear of vaccine side effects. One post says: “A comparison of official government reports suggests that the fully vaccinated people develop acquired immune deficiency syndrome.”
However, there is no indication of such a state of affairs. There is no scientific evidence that immunization will result in AIDS. We have verified this information and presented it in this text.
Another material published on the Lega Artis blog and profile contains false information about a protein produced using vaccination against COVID-19. It would cross the blood-brain barrier, be spread to other people in the environment, and cause menstrual problems.
Our analysis, in which we verified the above untrue reports, can be found at this link.
Vaccines and infertility
Another post published on the Lega Artis blog presents false information, translated from naturalnews.com. According to these reports, Dr. Roger Hodkinson allegedly argued that COVID-19 vaccines would lead to infertility.
This post was also misinformative, spreading false beliefs, as described in this analysis.
The Facebook profile and blog of the Lega Artis law firm began to change the discourse and disinformation topic already before the Russian-Ukrainian war. As military operations intensified, the blog increased the publication of false information to distort the risks associated with war.
Currently, the Lega Artis discourse focuses on promoting anti-refugee narratives. Describing refugees in antagonistic language as “displaced people showing their horns” is intended to arouse hostility and radicalize attitudes and behaviour. The purpose of presenting refugees as “showing their horns” is to mobilize a reader to oppose this phenomenon actively.
False state of emergency
On February 15, 2022, false information about the introduction of the “state of emergency” in Poland appeared on the blog and Facebook profile of the Lega Artis Law Firm. In Poland, a decision was made to introduce the ALFA-CRP emergency, which we described in this analysis.
The chancellery’s websites were disseminating disinformation before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and in the following days, they intensified their scale.
Biological weapons laboratories
During the war, the Lega Artis blog and profile also published false information about biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine. They were supposed to belong to the United States, and during the hostilities, they were to be taken over by Russian forces.
We have verified this information in this analysis. In May 2020, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) denied that there were American biological laboratories in this country. Instead, both countries cooperate in the fight against the terrorist threat that uses biological weapons.
By presenting Ukraine’s activities as harmful, the disinformation content aims to justify Russia’s attack and aggression and present Russian military action in a good light.
Free housing and financial assistance
The website also published false information about free housing and other types of assistance for people from Ukraine. The post omits the fact that the solutions are temporary, and the funds will not go directly to refugees but to people who will take them under their roof.
This type of action aims to arouse aversion to people fleeing the war from Ukraine and awaken the feeling that Poles are becoming “second-class citizens” in their own country. We have verified this information in this article.
We Do Not Vaccinate
We Do Not Vaccinate is a group that brings together 11.1 thousand users on Facebook. It appeared on July 16, 2021. Since then, false information about the coronavirus pandemic has been published there. Their goal is to persuade members of the group not to vaccinate against the coronavirus.
The group’s activity is based on sharing posts from other Facebook profiles by members and sometimes sharing links for articles on websites outside the platform.
The group has no user regulations, and the discussion does not indicate that it is moderated somehow. The group’s core is a pair of accounts that share the content. Some active members’ lack of photos and profile information may indicate a false or stolen identity.
Disinformation in the group is chaotic and bottom-up. It is based on the voluntary sharing by profiles (whether authentic or not) of information that is not controlled.
It is worth mentioning that some content published on the group is consistent with those issued as part of the Viral Vendetta movement, which we wrote about in this analysis. Like the V_V movement, the “We do not vaccinate” group portrays the coronavirus pandemic as “medical Nazism”, using Nazi symbolism and comparisons.
Several graphics and posts present pandemics as the Nazi Dictatorship tool. They show the idea of the EU COVID certificate as a form of modern slavery and compare the vaccination program with concentration camps.
The group also published materials that compared the vaccination program to concentration camps and forced labour camps, presenting the vaccination program and EU certificates as means of enslaving humanity.
Among the disinformation content, there are also graphics comparing the coronavirus pandemic to the Nazi dictatorship and arguing that “history is repeating itself” and the pandemic is an organized and planned operation.
From the Russian invasion of Ukraine, users have content on comprehensive information concerning the network of biological laboratories and refugee and conspiracy topics.
One of the posts shared in the group contains information that there is no network of biological laboratories. Those entities were allegedly collaborating with the USA and were working on spreading rare infections.
Similar information content shared by Lega Artis has been verified in this article.
Another type of conspiracy promoted by the group is the Heavenly Jerusalem theory that we have described and verified in this article. This false concept assumes that Israel will be transferred to Ukrainian territory as part of a secret project.
The goal of using anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is to create a false image of the war as a consequence of a Semitic conspiracy and deepen the belief that “Jews are behind everything.”
It is a semantically similar version of the narrative, which we described in the example of “looking for the guilty” in the disinformation content of the GlosGminny.pl profile. In this case, the war once again is not a consequence of Russian actions, but a conspiracy of an elite group, in this particular case – Jews.
Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories also surfaced during the pandemic. False information suggested that, despite the restrictions, the Jews could celebrate with a bang, or by introducing a pandemic, they tried to take control of the world.
The group also includes false information about the situation on the Ukrainian-Polish border. The published materials are intended to raise doubts about the origin of people fleeing Ukraine and their identity, and arouse fear of them. We wrote about the situation at the border in connection with the war in this analysis.
The News from Definitive Times
In the description of the channel, we can read:
“Selected news from multiple channels and groups! Channel founded against YT and FB censorship. It belongs to the family of the YT channel “Okiem Prostaczka” (Through the Eye of the Simple – editorial note), the fanpage “Znaki Czasów Ostatecznych” (Signs of the Definitive Times – editorial note) has been removed from FB and the FB fanpage „Book of Truth Poland – nieoficjalna” (Book of Truth Poland – unofficial – editorial note).”
Since the coronavirus pandemic, this channel has shared content designed to undermine the existence of the pandemic and portray it as a planned and controlled operation by a global elite.
One user shares the content on the channel with the nickname “John Connor.” Occasionally, an account called “Emi” gets involved. Although Telegram is devoid of external moderation, these accounts are responsible for creating discourse within The News from Definitive Times.
The shared content is mainly videos and photos assigned to new, false contexts. There are also graphics (including memes) and photos of Facebook posts, which are to distort the image of the described crises. Selected articles are also promoted.
Shared posts are sacred, ridiculous, or shocking. The narrative aims to “discover the truth about the conspiracy of the elites.” The distortion of reality is perceived as a media creation and herald of the apocalypse and the New Paradise.
The channel features content that presents the pandemic as a media-directed creation and vaccines as a weapon against humanity.
The pandemic is a spectacle
The channel includes, among other things, a video showing two people in white hygienic suits, gloves, and masks. One of them, when asked by the man shooting the material, nodded that he was a “COVID cleaner.”
Because one of the people in the suit posed for photos taken by the other person, the author of the recording suggested aloud in English that this was material intended for the media.
In the post, there is a description that reads as follows: “Scaring the people continues. Directed PLANdemics! 😡.”
The post aims to portray a pandemic as a planned activity orchestrated to manipulate and frighten people. We verified the false information suggesting that the pandemic was false here.
The evolution of weapons
The channel also published a graphic described as “the evolution of weapons”, which shows different types of weapons in a time hierarchy, trying to prove that vaccines are part of the process of improving combat measures, constituting a weapon against humanity.
Also, one may find there a photo of the graffiti, where Bill Gates is portrayed holding the syringe. The bullet is flying in Bill Gates’ direction, and there is a cemetery behind him.
The graffiti suggests that Bill Gates should be killed since he is responsible for the vaccination program, depicted in the material on the canal as an act to take control of humanity.
We have verified the false reports regarding Bill Gates and his alleged connections with vaccines many times.
Similar to previous sources of disinformation, The News from Definitive Times channel also increased the publication of false content about the Ukrainian-Russian war after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In the days that followed, the discourse on the Russian invasion almost replaced the false information related to the pandemic and vaccines, dominating among the published posts.
In the first days, it focused on the situation related to refugees who fled from Ukraine to Poland, trying to draw attention to people of colour.
The aim of disinformation posts of this type is to arouse a negative attitude towards refugees and aversion in the recipients and strengthen the belief that not Ukrainians come to Poland, but people from the Middle East and Africa.
We wrote about the situation of refugees in this article, also verifying reports about their origin.
The war in Syria
Another way to distract from Russia’s military operations and military aggression is to change the subject and remind of wars and conflicts that also take place, though allegedly forgotten.
The channel has a graphic showing a bombed city with armoured vehicles passing through it, with the caption: “Israel has been bombing Syria for five days. This is what the Syrian flag looks like if anyone would want to overlay it.”
This type of description intends to arouse aversion to the media, which emphasizes the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, “forgetting” about military operations carried out in other parts of the world. Similar manipulation techniques are called “whataboutism” (another logical fallacy), which consists in rejecting the accusation made by the opponent, while accusing him of similar conduct.
Its goal is to divide society by criticizing people who used the overlay of a Facebook profile picture with the Ukrainian flag.
The war as a spectacle
The channel published a post describing Zelensky as an actor, the conflict as a planned action, and the war as a battle of global elites clashing in the struggle for control over the world.
The aim of this type of activity is to diminish the essence of the war and present it as a media spectacle, but also as a substitute topic for the actual problem, which is the global conspiracy of the elites, beyond our reach. Moreover, this takes the responsibility from the Russian Federation as the sole aggressor.
We have verified reports of the alleged hoax that war could be in this analysis.
The actions of this type of disinformation actors fit in with the pro-Russian propaganda aimed at creating information chaos in the media sphere. The rush of disinformation is to divert attention from the events during the war and arouse extreme emotions in social media recipients.
The thematic areas of war disinformation converge, addressing similar issues, such as presenting the conflict as a conspiracy and a media-directed spectacle and staging, arousing fear and aversion to people fleeing Ukraine, or threatening with biological weapons.
The purpose of manipulating and disseminating alternative information is to distort the image of war or even negate it altogether. The abundance of the false report makes it difficult to understand the essence of the crisis and war, deepens the feeling that no one can be trusted, and divides society.
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