Over the course of three years (from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2022), researchers analysed 58,625 articles from 460 unverified sources – sources that were indicated by fact checkers and other mis/disinformation experts as frequently spreading mis/disinformation – in order to identify the main narratives of COVID-19 mis/disinformation and analyse their spread over time and across countries.

Their findings has been published on PLOS ONE – Trend analysis of COVID-19 mis/disinformation narratives – A 3-year study

The analysis shows that: 

  • There are often real events behind mis/disinformation trends, which unverified sources misrepresent or take out of context.
  • Vaccine-related mis/disinformation was overall the most widespread type of mis/disinformation and it started to surge in the autumn of 2020 as preliminary data on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines became available.
  • Russian unverified sources pushed ambivalent messages around COVID-19 vaccines. On the one hand, they spread anti-vax messages to foreign audiences. On the other hand, they promoted the Sputnik V vaccine both at home and abroad, portraying it as an instrument for the Kremlin to demonstrate international solidarity and assert itself as the global leader that would save the world from the pandemic.