Democracy Works: China's Role In The COVID-19 Infodemic

May 18, 2020

Jessica Brandt
Credit Alliance for Securing Democracy

As if the COVID-19 pandemic wasn't enough to deal with, the World Health Organization says we're now in an infodemic alongside it. We've seen this play out as misinformation and conspiracy theories move from digital to mainstream media and cast a shadow of doubt about information coming from the government and public health experts.

Our guests this week have been tracking China's role in this infodemic and argue that Beijing is taking a few pages out of Russia's playbook for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election and its broader efforts to undermine democracy around the world. Jessica Brandt and Bret Schafer are part of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which tracks online information manipulation through its Hamilton 2.0 dashboard.

Early on in the pandemic, they saw an uptick in tweets from Chinese diplomats and embassies that were amplifying conspiracy theories about the virus's origin and casting doubt on information from the World Health Organization and other official sources. The goal is not necessarily to have people believe these claims, but to stir up enough doubt to discredit democratic norms and institutions.