It’s been clear since October 2016 that Vladimir Putin has been interfering in our elections, and that he’s planning to do it again. Even if he can’t get Trump re-selected, he can throw things into such confusion that we won’t trust the election results. His goal is destabilizing the West, and especially the United States.
But now he has sunk even lower; he is using a worldwide pandemic to achieve that goal.
Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets are waging a disinformation campaign about the coronavirus pandemic to sow “panic and fear” in the West, EU officials have warned in a report seen by CNN.The European Union's External Action Service, which researches and combats disinformation online, said in an internal report that since January 22 it had recorded nearly 80 cases of disinformation about the Covid-19 outbreak linked to pro-Kremlin media.
“The overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries, specifically by undermining public trust in national healthcare systems — thus preventing an effective response to the outbreak,” according to the report.
CNBC picked up the same story: Russia deploying coronavirus disinformation to sow panic in West, EU document says
The EU document cited examples from Lithuania to Ukraine. It said that on social media, Russian state-funded, Spanish-language RT Spanish was the 12th most popular news source on coronavirus between January and mid-March, based on the amount of news shared on social media.
The EU report is from March 16. Late February, the US State Department made similar charges:
In February, a top State Department official accused Russia of deploying similar tactics around coronavirus, spreading falsehoods that may stoke panic or undermine health officials’ response to the deadly outbreak. But the U.S. government has offered no public evidence of its claims, sparking criticism from tech companies, which say they remain in the dark about the exact nature of suspected Kremlin interference.
AFAIK to date Facebook and Twitter are still asking State for details and confirmation. But now the EU is saying the same thing. Russia denies it, of course. If you believe them, I have a whole stock of bridges in my warehouse; two for the price of one.
A Foreign Policy article from March 14 thinks the disinformation campaign is mainly for Russian domestic consumption, but even so,
The Russian messaging fits a now well-established pattern in that it doesn’t look to persuade audiences of a single alternative truth. That would take effort, planning, and persuasion. Modern-day Russian propaganda has instead been described by the Rand Corp. as a “firehose of falsehood,” a steady stream of underdeveloped, sometimes contradictory conspiracy theories intended to exhaust and confuse viewers, making them question the very notion of objective truth itself.
This is the definition of evil: To use a pandemic that hurts everyone — Russia, too — to advance one’s personal interests. (Trump can easily be accused of that, too, but he’s not as competent at evil as Putin is.) At a time when needs calm and effective leadership, and most importantly, clear facts, Putin’s Russia is deliberating muddying the waters for the simple reason that he sees this disease as just another weapon he can use to undermine the West. Never mind that viruses do not select for ideology or stop at the customs desk.