Today, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Constella Intelligence released a new joint report highlighting the social and public health challenges that misinformation about COVID-19 has caused in Latin America and the Caribbean, indicating how the massive influx of digital conversations related to COVID -19 has hampered the effectiveness of public health responses and undermined social cohesion and political stability around the world. Leveraging Analyzer, Constella’s proprietary cloud-based platform for advanced analysis of the digital public sphere, the report assesses the extent and dynamics of “information pollution” (false, manipulated and misleading information produced and transmitted with or without harmful intent). The research analyzed more than 37 million posts from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, media domains, blogs, forums and other public digital communities in English and Spanish geolocated in Latin America and the Caribbean. The study identified key communities of opinion, key narratives across the broader debate, the role and influence of mainstream and alternative media in the digital conversation, and cross-border flows of critical public health narratives.
Constella Intelligence is proud to partner with UNDP, a United Nations organization charged with helping countries eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth and human development. UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crises and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone.
Key findings related to the spread of “information pollution” in LATAM and the Caribbean
This report offers essential insights into digital media trends, identifying vulnerabilities and helping to inform strategies to counter the harmful effects of online information pollution. The research revealed the geographic origins of information pollution, details on how fake content can spread within and across borders, and the types of stories that attract the most attention. Warning.
1. Half a million COVID-19 vaccines online content in Latin America turns out to be information pollution. Less than 1% of users contributing to information pollution produced nearly 25% of conversations about information pollution.
2. A significant amount of information pollution is created by the repackaging, reframing and reproduction of out-of-context content produced by mainstream media. The research also identified several websites that were created with the primary purpose of generating misinformation.
3. Some of the most common stories of information pollution—accounting for about 40% of “polluted” content reviewed”—discuss claims of vaccine side effects and perceived benefits of alternative COVID-19 treatments.
4. Other narratives revolve around grievances and fears related to mask-wearing and the rejection of social distancing as an effective form of prevention. This content has significantly undermined the response by encouraging disregard for proven public health measures and undermining pandemic control efforts.
The research conducted by Constella and UNDP is an excellent example of the importance of public-private collaborations to better understand global and local trends emerging from the digital public sphere. Amid the Ukraine crisis, we can expect to see similar trends in misinformation and misinformation campaigns that will spread like wildfire to other countries and languages. Collaboration between the private and public sectors is essential to stem the spread of multilingual information pollution. COVID-19 is just the tip of the iceberg.
Constella and UNDP Joint Findings and Recommendations to Address the Challenges of “Information Pollution”
- 1. Addressing information pollution will require context-specific and multi-pronged strategies. Developing effective social listening and information pollution detection systems will be a key first step.
- 2. Information pollution is spreading like wildfire and moderating English content is only one piece of the puzzle. More comprehensive efforts need to be made to trace multilingual information pollution to limit misinforming narratives, public mistrust and public health paranoia.
- 3. Algorithmic transparency and regulation of how information flows across social media platforms and associated channels is becoming a pressing issue that cannot be resolved at the national level alone. Advocating for a global alliance of governments and other stakeholders to work together on social media regulation is a priority, especially in the face of the growing number of competing platforms and the shortcomings of self-regulation. Precautions will be needed to ensure the protection of rights such as privacy and freedom of expression, while ensuring online safety and measures to address public harm.
- 4. Greater transparency of public action, active engagement of the media, strengthening of information verification capacities and community participation are also necessary to tackle this problem and build resilience to future crises. information pollution.
- 5. Government agencies, media, social media companies, civil society, religious and community leaders, as well as influencers such as sports and entertainment personalities, are key players in amplifying evidence-based messaging. evidence and accountability to mitigate information pollution.
Read the full report here to learn how information pollution related to the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the digital conversation in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The trends of misinformation, disinformation, information pollution, and harmful or false narratives emerging in the digital sphere do not exist in isolation. Visit the Constella Intelligence Ukraine microsite to stay informed about our dedicated research and information related to Information Operations and new tactics, techniques and procedures that our team is monitoring in the public digital sphere as well as the deep and dark web specifically related to threat actors. and the Ukrainian crisis.