Response to the pandemic and foreign relations as the main targets of disinformation in December in Poland
All over the month, Poland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic triggered a flow of disinformation, with the special focus on the safety of vaccination. Most of such articles neglected the need of restrictions (especially prohibition of movement during holidays season) and security measures (i.e., masks) as well as presented vaccine as unsafe and dangerous. Military security and foreign policy (Polish relations with the EU, US, and NATO), though to a lesser extent, were among the most targeted sectors as well.
In December 2020, Debunk EU experts spotted 406 articles with disinformation (97.5%) and 10 with misinformation (2.5%). According to Debunk EU analysts, those articles had a potential reach of 79.5 million contacts.
Starting from December 9th, an increase in ‘Anti EU’ narrative was observed. Negative messages related to the Polish veto of EU budged differenced from November one. In November, Poland was presented as a hero which stood up for its sovereignty against the hostility of EU. In December, the message aimed to show Poland as a failing state which actions were ineffective and unreasonable.
The pro-Kremlin message about Poland’s coordination of protests in Belarus was strengthened in the connection to several statements by Aleksander Lukashenko accusing NATO of starting preparations to take over the western territories of Belarus in order to implement the slogan of “the historical belonging of Belarusian lands to Poland”. These were commonly shared together with the anti-US and anti-NATO disinformation related to the Defender Europe 2021 NATO exercise.
The elections in the United States continue to spark a discussion on Polish-American relations. Poland was presented as a US vassal, particularly in the context of military agreements, presenting Polish army as useless and undermining purchase of arms and military vehicles.
Analysis of collected data indicates that the application of particular narrative by the pro-Kremlin sources was reactive, rather than planned in advance as narratives tended to correlate more with sound statements and/or events of national or international significance, but not between themselves.
In December, ‘problematic information’ related to Poland was mostly spread by the Kremlin’s funded information outlet sputkniknews.com together with Polish websites which share pro-Kremlin messages neon24.pl and nczas.com, which constituted more than a half of the overall publicity (63.3%). Moreover, an increase in dissemination of ‘problematic information’ related to vaccination and coronavirus was also witnessed within social media platform wykop.pl, where almost no other pro-Kremlin messages were spotted.
Debunk EU is an independent technology think tank and non-governmental organisation that researches disinformation and runs educational media literacy campaigns. Debunk EU conducts disinformation analysis in the Baltic states, as well as in Poland, the United States and Northern Macedonia together with the partners. Debunk EU was noticed by such media giants as “The Financial Times” and “Deutsche Welle”. The organisation has presented its activities in 17 countries, including the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Serbia, etc.