The COVID-19 outbreak caused a global public health crisis, but unfortunately, its impacts go far beyond the health dimension. Since the beginning of the crisis, disinformation actors have played a key role in spreading disinformation and hoaxes.
United Russia party gained a majority of votes in a parliamentary election accompanied by alleged widespread violations. While observers report cases of forced voting and vote-rigging, Russian officials shift the blame to foreign media and NGOs. Their rhetoric is echoed by the pro-Russian disinformation media.
As the world remembers the victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, conspiracy theories about what “really” happened are resurfacing and continue to roam the Internet twenty years after the event, although most have been disproven and none confirmed by experts.
The rapid fall of the Afghan government and the hasty evacuation of refugees from Kabul’s airport provided ample opportunity for disinformation actors and media to spread streams of anti-American, anti-NATO and anti-refugee narratives. Accordingly, disinformation proliferated in the Slovak information space regarding the recent events in Afghanistan.
On August 10, the Slovak cabinet approved a series of changes to the COVID automat – an emotionally charged topic that had led to several anti-government protests in recent weeks. The new changes are due to come into force on August 16. They come after the last set of restrictions regarding the border regime was suspended by the Slovak Constitutional Court, giving the people who only got the 1st dose of vaccine the same rights as those who are unvaccinated.
After the recent protests against Slovak doctors and experts, the government has now become the latest target in a series of anti-vax/anti-pandemic measures protests. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Slovak parliament to voice their discontent with new pandemic measures.
At the end of the last month, the disinformation media began publishing articles calling for protests in front houses of well-known doctors who spoke out in favor of vaccination. Although such disinformation narratives and threats to doctors advocating vaccination have been present on the Internet for some time, they have rarely left the realms of social media and transformed into a real physical threat to the doctors.
Currently a hotly debated topic that has sparked a new wave of anti-vax conspiracy narratives is the vaccination of minors. A recent survey found that only 46% of Slovaks support vaccinating children under the age of 16 years.In his recent post, Slovak opposition politician Ľuboš Blaha who often spreads problematic content, accused the governing coalition of allowing Slovak children to become “test subjects”.
The disinformation actors also stick to their traditional topics including Covid-19 and anti-vaccination narratives. The passing of a popular Slovak presenter Julo Viršík at the age of 56 due to cardiac arrest, who was recently vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine, served as a pretext for the renewed spread of anti-vax narratives by the disinformation media.