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COVID-19 Disinformation: A Multi-National, Whole of Society Perspective

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  • © 2022


  • Brings disinformation surrounding COVID-19 research to the fore
  • Provides a multi-national perspective on COVID-19 and disinformation
  • Presents lessons learned (thus far) on how to respond to potential future pandemics

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About this book

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a threat to our health and economy, but also has strong implications for defence and security. Indeed, defence leaders have highlighted a second fight surrounding the spread of COVID-19, namely disinformation and preparing to face adversaries willing to exploit the public health crisis for nefarious purposes. The current pandemic is a breeding ground for the propagation of disinformation, as it represents the first major global health event in which large social media platforms have become the main distributor of information. This multi-national edited volume consists of contributions from Defence Science, academia and industry, including NATO Headquarters, United States, Netherlands, Singapore, United Kingdom and Norway. The content is aimed at a diverse audience, including NATO members, researchers from defence and security organizations, academics, and militaries including analysts and practitioners, as well as policy makers. This volume focuses onvarious aspects of COVID-19 disinformation, including identifying global dominant disinformation narratives and the methods used to spread disinformation, examining COVID-19 disinformation within the broader context of the cognitive domain, examining the psychological effects of COVID-19 disinformation and COVID-19 disinformation on instant messaging platforms, along with examining various countermeasures to disinformation.

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Table of contents (8 chapters)

Editors and Affiliations

  • Defence Research and Development Canada, North York, Canada

    Ritu Gill

  • Arlington, USA

    Rebecca Goolsby

About the editors

Ritu Gill has a PhD in Social Psychology from Carleton University. She started her career as a Research Manager in the Research Branch of Correctional Service Canada in Ottawa, and joined Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC) as a Defence Scientist in 2007. She led the Psychological Effects Team, and is currently a Section Head in DRDC. Her research examines online influence activities, specifically, how the internet and social media influences the information environment, including the analysis of online audiences, and how deception techniques employed by adversaries, such as disinformation, impacts audiences. She is routinely invited to speak at national and international conferences to share her research. She participates in international defence research collaborations as the Canadian Project Officer for the Tri-lateral Partnership Agreement with Sweden and Netherlands on 'Understanding Influence'. Along with Dr. Goolsby, she is co-lead for the NATO Human Factors and Medicine Research Task Group 'Digital & Social Media Assessment for Effective Communication and Cyber Diplomacy'. In May 2020, Dr. Gill was interviewed by NATO TV Channel identifying dominant Coronavirus narratives propagated by adversaries, potential counter-strategies, and identifying the current activities of the NATO HFM research Panel activities.  Dr. Gill also conceived of and led the planning and organization of a Canadian interagency virtual symposium on COVID-19 and Disinformation bringing national and international experts together to present the most recent research on COVID-19 and disinformation.  

Rebecca Goolsby is a program officer overseeing the program, “Social Networks and Computational Social Science” at the Office of Naval Research.  She is a well-known digital anthropologist with a strong background in the study of information warfare, cyberdiplomacy and the use of social media in crisis and disaster.  She is a recipient of a Fulbright Award and other honors for scholarship and service in the federal government. She is a highly cited authority on conflict in the information environment with several groundbreaking publications in the field.  Her article, “On Cybersecurity, Crowdsourcing and Social Cyber-Attack, published in 2012 by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholarship,  introduced the problem of propaganda, trolling, and coordinated information terrorism, providing the first published description of social cyber-attack using crowdsourcing methods. Along with Dr. Gill, she is Co-Lead of a NATO Research Technology Group on cyberdiplomacy and communications that has turned its focus to disinformation and COVID-19.  She regularly provides briefs on information maneuvers to counter disinformation, social hysteria propagation and crowd manipulations to US forces drawing from a newly developed digital and social media playbook for government and military communicators. In February 2020, she was the keynote speaker for the “Hacking Democracy: Influence Operations in the Digital Age” event in Oslo, Norway as a guest of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) and the Norwegian Atlantic Committee.  She is a long-time scholar of digital culture, disaster communications, disinformation and crowd manipulation in social media.

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