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Media and Coronavirus Misinformation in an Authoritarian Media System: The Case of Russia

Erik Nisbet, PhD

Owen L. Coon Endowed Professor of Policy Analysis & Communication
Associate Professor

Director, Center on Policy Analysis & Communication

School of Communication
Northwestern University

The rapid progression of the global Coronavirus pandemic has been matched with a substantial global “infodemic” of online health misinformation that has been difficult to effectively combat. For example, nearly two-thirds of Americans report seeing a lot or some news or information about the coronavirus that seemed completely made-up and half report that it is difficult to determine what is true or false. In an open, democratic media system, infodemics may be at least partially mitigated by credible news sources and independent fact-checking. By contrast, however, the availability of independent, credible media and fact-checking resources are extremely limited an authoritarian media system such as Russia. Moreover, authoritarian regimes often employ state-controlled and/or influenced media to spread misinformation that serves their political interests. This exploratory study employs a national representative telephone poll (N=1600) conduced in June 2020 in Russia to examine the exposure to, and endorsement of, coronavirus misinformation among Russian general population and its correlation with use of online and offline information sources, their emotional state, and their motivation to discriminate between truth and falsehood.
Investigators: Erik Nisbet, PhD & Olga Kamenchuck, Associate Professor, Northwestern University.

Presentation date: June 11, 2020.