Pandemics and infodemics – disinformation in times of disease

Interview with Alina Bârgăoanu, dean of the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations at SNSPA and an expert in the High Level Group on Disinformation set up by the European Commission

Theories on the media’s effects have taught us that people believe a lot of what they are told in times of crisis. The hunger for information, simplistic perspectives and solutions to complex problems grow together with the dimensions of the crisis which the society passes through.

Alina Bârgăoanu never tires of studying the phenomenon of digital disinformation. She is the author of a significant number of academic articles, books and press publications on this issue. At the Institute for Social Solidarity we invited her to speak about the characteristics of the campaign for disinformation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. What are the specific elements, how do digital platforms react, why only now are digital giants doing what seemed to be censorship in the past – to direct  user searches about the virus automatically to the World Health Organisation site without asking it for money? 

Before these changes, users were directed to a site as a consequence of SEO (search engine optimisation) methods; towards the source that offered the most money for advertisement! If they were anti-vaxx sites, funded by conservative American or Russian movements, there was no problem, let the public inform themselves there! It is probably natural that a crisis should hit in order for companies and us to become sensitive to the public good. Today corporations are a power rising to the level of nation states. But it is not easy to discuss these things. That is why it is necessary for us to talk more about them:  

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