Virality Project (Saudi): Saudi Arabia State Media and COVID-19
How has state media in Saudi Arabia discussed COVID-19 spread and response in other countries? To what extent is state media customizing messages via their country-specific outlets? We assess these questions with data from 30 Facebook Pages.
Featured News and Publications
Virality Project (China): Mask Diplomacy – Chinese Narratives in the COVID Era
Russian Dispatches from the June 2020 Twitter Inauthentic Activity Takedown
Digital Street Conflict
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COVID-19 has directly or indirectly affected every country, providing an opportunity for comparative analysis of the ways governments use the pandemic to pursue political objectives. SIO has been conducting case studies investigating how various state media apparatuses are responding to the crisis, and the political dimensions of coronavirus misinformation around the world. Here we focus on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, investigating how its state media (and media formally or informally linked to the ruling royal family) have discussed the pandemic.
Plandemic was one step in a larger process to raise the profile of its subject. SIO had begun to observe an increasing number of posts about Plandemic’s subject, Judy Mikovits, beginning on April 16. For two and a half weeks, we observed a series of cross-platform moments in which Judy Mikovits – a scientist whose work was retracted by journal editors – was recast as an expert whistleblower exposing a vast government cover-up.
Analysis of April 2020 Twitter takedowns linked to Saudia Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Honduras, Serbia, and Indonesia
On March 11, 2020 Twitter shared with the Stanford Internet Observatory accounts and tweets associated with five distinct takedowns. These include:
As scientists continue to study how the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Wuhan, China, and around the world, the infection’s early pathways have proven fertile ground for speculation and conspiracy theories. Although COVID-19’s earliest origins may remain uncertain, the story of one volley in the ongoing U.S.-China blame game shows that misinformation about the disease can be traced to specific speculations, distortions, and amplifications.
The Stanford Internet Observatory has been investigating new facets to the manipulation of the local media environment in Libya: Russian actors who are known to have previously created and sponsored online news media fronts and associated Facebook pages, now appear to be expanding into similar activities in broadcast media.
The perception of China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been a significant challenge for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the past two months. The CCP has been attempting to control the narrative and deflect blame since the start of the outbreak, both domestically and abroad.
This is the third of a series of pieces the Observatory intends to publish on societies and elections at risk from online disinformation. Our goal is to draw the attention of the media, tech platforms and other academics to these risks and to provide a basic background that could be useful to those who wish to study the information environment in these areas.
On January 11, 2020, Taiwan held its 15th presidential and 10th Legislative Yuan election. Taiwanese citizens soundly re-elected Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, who won 57.1% of the vote over her opponents, Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Han Kuo-yu (who took 38.61%), and the People’s First Party candidate James Soong (4.26%). The DPP also maintained its majority in the Legislative Yuan, though with a slight decrease of a few seats. Voter turnout was high, with almost 74% of eligible voters casting ballots, up from 66% in 2016.
There is only one day left before Taiwan heads to the polls, and researchers, election integrity teams at tech platforms, and press are following the dynamics closely. On January 1st, Taiwan entered into its ten day polling black-out period, a time during which there is a strict ban on agencies and individuals sharing, or citing, any public survey related to a candidate or the election overall.
On December 20, 2019 Twitter announced the removal of 88,000 accounts managed by Smaat, a digital marketing company based in Saudi Arabia, and attributed thousands of these accounts to involvement in “a significant state-backed information operation”. On December 17 Twitter shared with the Stanford Internet Observatory 32,054,257 tweets from 5,929 randomly sampled accounts. In this report we provide a first analysis of the data.
Last Friday, December 13, 2019, Facebook announced it had removed 118 fan pages, 99 groups, and 51 accounts supporting Taiwan’s KMT presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu. Our team at SIO had been observing several of the Groups removed, including one that was prominently featured in media coverage of the takedown: 2020韓國瑜總統後援會（總會）[“2020 Han Kuo-yu presidential support group (General group)”].