Analyzing News Manipulation by State Actors

Video camera operator working broadcasting television news pandemic virus situation

In a recently released report, Bad Actors in News Reporting: Tracking News Manipulation by State Actors, RAND Corporation details national government’s efforts to manipulate COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic information to further their own global agendas. The report found that all nations analyzed, which included China, the U.S., the U.K., and Russia, participated in some form of politically charged COVID reporting. Russia, for example, used the pandemic to promote anti-U.S. conspiracy theories.

Ultimately, this practice has further exacerbated “truth decay” around the world. This phenomenon describes “disagreements over the established truth” which is driven by:

  • an increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data;
  • a blurring of the line between opinion and fact;
  •  an increasing relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion and personal experience over fact;
  • [and] a declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.

Truth decay creates division, mistrust, and threatens national security. To help combat this issue, as well as minimize the spread of harmful propaganda and disinformation, countries may consider employing a “news manipulation detection system.” The purpose of such a system would be to monitor news articles on a global scale and identify what, when, and where various topics are trending. This would allow for near-real time analysis and enable the deployment of countermeasures aimed at enhancing national security and solidifying accurate dissemination of information.

For more information on topics related to this piece, check out the COVID-19 Special Collection, or visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Disinformation and Pandemics and Epidemics. Articles related to COVID-19 disinformation, National Security,  and International Relations can also be found in the HSDL.

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