The First 100 Days: Coronavirus and Crisis Management on Social Media Platforms

Published: 15th May 2020

Since January 2020, COVID-19 has become the perfect crucible for online harms. Pandemics are by their nature fast-moving, with constantly evolving information even from credible and expert sources. This is set against a backdrop of heightened fear and anxiety, where valid concerns over resource scarcity, economic fallout and personal safety merge with extremist views on race and social order. New conspiracies and coordinated disinformation efforts have exploded online, preying on the uncertainty of this moment and the ambiguity regarding the source and spread of the disease worldwide.

The disinformation crisis surrounding COVID-19 is not an abstract problem. Online content can catalyse real-world harm, and research is already documenting the risks of COVID-19 disinformation to public health and safety. Countries across the globe have seen a spike in anti-Asian, anti-Semitic and other targeted hate, often directly citing or fuelled by conspiracies surrounding the virus’ origin and transfer. At the same time, debunked theories related to 5G have spurred violent attacks against telecoms infrastructure and related personnel in the UK, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Conspiracy theories have not only sparked protests in the US, Australia, Germany and the UK (to cite just a few), but are helping promote scepticism and distrust in any future vaccine that might curb the virus’ spread. If such trends continue, they will hinder any efforts to keep the public safe and well- informed.

This report offers an interim review of responses to the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’ from three major technology companies – Facebook, Google and Twitter – from March to May 2020. These platforms have been forced to mobilise at speed, trialling policies and enforcement approaches that can meet such a challenge. The briefing summarises the approaches taken by respective teams at Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google and YouTube, including specific services and policies introduced in recent months and, where possible, the accompanying rationale from companies themselves.

The Business of Hate: Bankrolling Bigotry in Germany and the Online Funding of Hate Groups

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) have published a new study which shows how 17 known German far right groups and actors allegedly use online funding services to fund their activities. These services include companies like Mastercard, Paypal, Giropay and WooCommerce). More than half of these online funding services have Terms of Service (ToS) that should prohibit their use by such sites.

Das Geschäft mit dem Hass – Wie Online-Bezahldienstleister von der rechtsextremen Szene genutzt werden

Das Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) und der Global Disinformation Index (GDI) haben in ihrer neusten Studie 17 bekannte deutsche extremistische Gruppen und Akteure identifiziert, die Online-Finanzdienste nutzen, um ihre Aktivitäten zu finanzieren. Zu diesen Diensten gehören Unternehmen wie American Express, Mastercard und Visa, Paypal, Square und Klarna, aber auch Online-Shopping Unternehmen wie WooCommerce und Spendendienste wie Patreon.