Comment on COVID-19 disinformation warnings

June 10, 2020




A 'massive wave' of disinformation is harming the health of EU citizens, according to a new intervention that accuses China and Russia of running fake news campaigns about coronavirus.

The European Commission today warned of ‘targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns in the EU, its neighbourhood, and globally’.

The Commission’s Vice President for values and transparency, Vera Jourova, said the prevalence ‘really showed that disinformation does not only harm the health of our democracies, it also harms the health of our citizens’.

She raised particular concerns about the impact on vaccination, citing a study showing that Germans’ willingness to be vaccinated had fallen by 20 percentage points in two months.

In the UK, regulator Ofcom said 38 per cent of people have come across false or misleading information about COVID-19 in the week to the end of May.

The most common piece of misinformation was ‘theories linking the origins or causes of COVID-19 to 5G technology’.

The Open Knowledge Foundation campaigns against the spread of disinformation.

A recent opinion poll for the organisation found that a majority of people in the UK want ministers to take action against disinformation on social media sites.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:

“The spread of fake news and disinformation on internet platforms is a huge problem during this global health emergency.

“The EU’s findings make for alarming reading and could have a devastating long-term impact on how society recovers from the coronavirus crisis.

“The best way to tackle disinformation is to make information open, allowing journalists, scientists and researchers to provide facts to the public.

“Tech giants have a responsibility to increase transparency and work closely with fact checkers, but voluntary action is never going to be enough by itself.

“The UK Government should take action against social media platforms and the institutions of the EU must use their influence to force online platforms to provide more detailed information allowing the identification of malign actors, put pressure on them to increase transparency, and encourage closer working with fact checkers to prevent the spread of disinformation.”



Guardian report on EU intervention:

Reuters report on EU intervention:

Ofcom data:

Recent opinion poll for the Open Knowledge Foundation:

Contact: Alan Roden at or +44 (0)7753 904 531


Our vision is for a future that is fair, free and open. Our mission is to create a more open world – a world where all non-personal information is open, free for everyone to use, build on and share; and creators and innovators are fairly recognised and rewarded.

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