Media Law / Communication / Information

This section includes literature on freedom of speech and misinformation.

Abazi, Vigjilenca, ‘Truth Distancing? Whistleblowing as Remedy to Censorship during COVID-19’ (2020) 11(2) European Journal of Risk Regulation Special Issue-‘Taming COVID-19 by Regulation’ 375-381
Abstract: In the COVID-19 pandemic, whistleblowers have become the essential watchdogs disrupting suppression and control of information. Many governments have intentionally not disclosed information or failed to do so in a timely manner, misled the public or even promoted false beliefs. Fierce public interest defenders are pushing back against this censorship. Dr Fen and Dr Wenliang were the first whistleblowers in China to report that a new pandemic was possibly underway, and ever since, numerous other whistleblowers around the world have been reporting on the spread of the virus, the lack of medical equipment and other information of public interest. This paper maps the relevant whistleblowing cases in China, the USA and Europe and shows that many whistleblowers are initially censored and face disciplinary measures or even dismissals. At the same time, whistleblowing during the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn public attention to the shortcomings of institutional reporting systems and a wider appreciation of whistleblowers as uniquely placed to expose risk at early stages. Ultimately, whistleblowing as a means of transparency is not only becoming ever less controversial, but during COVID-19 it has become the ‘remedy’ to censorship.

Abrusci, Elena, Sam Dubberley and Lorna McGregor, ‘An “Infodemic” in the Pandemic: Human Rights and Covid-19 Misinformation’ in Carla Ferstman and Andrew Fagan (eds), COVID-19, Law and Human Rights: Essex Dialogues (School of Law and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, 2020) 287–296

Agustiwi, Asri, Raka Widya Nugraha and Dania Rama Pratiwi, ‘Implementation of Law Number 11 of 2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions Against the Rise of Hoax Culture During Covid-19 Pandemic in Indonesia’ (2020) 3(1) Surakarta Law and Society Journal 55–66
Abstract: This article aims to find out the implementation of Law No. 11 of 2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions against the spread of hoaxes during the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia as well as how to prevent the growing culture of hoax information spreading in Indonesia. The research method used is a normative method with the study of the Law, while the secondary data material used is the study library as well as the approach of laws and concepts. The result obtained is Law No. 11/2008 jo No. 19/2016 Article 28 paragraphs 1 and 2 has been effective because it can limit the wiggle room of the perpetrators of news and hate speech. More specifically, the perpetrator can be ensaned with other relevant Articles namely Article 311 and 378 of the Consumer Order, Article 27 paragraph 3 of Law No. 19 of 2016 on Electronic Information and Transactions. The role of society, journalists and parents is indispensable also in preventing the dissemination of such fake news. Many steps can be taken, especially as the reader should not immediately believe there needs to be a study by comparing an information with other information. Keywords: hoax, Covid-19, Electronic Information And Transaction Act.

Al-Zaman, Md Sayeed, ‘COVID-19-Related Social Media Fake News in India’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3644107, 30 June 2020)
Abstract: This study analyzes N=125 Indian social media fake news related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It produces five major findings based on five research questions. First, the seven themes of fake news are health, religiopolitical, political, crime, entertainment, religious, and miscellaneous. Health-related fake news (67.2%) dominates the others. Second, the seven types of fake news contents are text, photo, audio and video, text & photo, text & video, and text & photo & video. More fake news takes the forms of text & video (47.2%). Third, online media produces more fake news (94.4%) than mainstream media (5.6%). Interestingly, four social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Youtube, produce most of the social media fake news. Fourth, relatively more fake news has international connections (54.4%) as the COVID-19 pandemic is a global phenomenon. Fifth, most of the COVID-19-related fake news is negative (63.2%). The paper concludes stating some limitations and implications of the findings.

Ardia, David S et al, ‘Addressing the Decline of Local News, Rise of Platforms, and Spread of Mis- and Disinformation Online: A Summary of Current Research and Policy Proposals’ (UNC Legal Studies Research Paper, 22 December 2020)
Abstract: Technological and economic assaults have destroyed the for-profit business model that sustained local journalism in this country for two centuries. While the advertising-based model for local news has been under threat for many years, the COVID-19 pandemic and recession have created what some describe as an ‘extinction level’ threat for local newspapers and other struggling news outlets. More than one-fourth of the country’s newspapers have disappeared, leaving residents in thousands of communities living in vast news deserts.As local news sources decline, a growing proportion of Americans are getting their news and other information from social media. This raises serious concerns, including the spread of misinformation and the use of platform infrastructure to engage in disinformation campaigns. Platforms wield significant advantages over local news sources in the current information environment: the dominant platforms possess proprietary, detailed caches of user data, which the platforms use to force advertisers, users, and news outlets into asymmetrical relationships. In the vacuum left by the disappearance of local news sources, users are increasingly reliant on information sources that are incomplete, and may be misleading or deceptive.This whitepaper examines current research related to the decline of local news, the rise of platforms, and the spread of mis- and disinformation and explores potential regulatory and policy responses to these issues. Some proposals focus on increasing the supply of – and demand for – local news, including increased public education and expanded support for journalists and local news organizations. Other proposals focus on market-based reforms that address the growing power disparities between news producers and platform operators as well as between platforms and their users. Solutions to the difficult problems we face will require a multifaceted, multi-disciplinary approach. No one lever within the market, law, or society will deliver a magic bullet. Instead, experts and policymakers will need to pull at multiple levers using a new vocabulary to talk across the different disciplines – a set of new propositions that recognize the legal, social, journalistic, and economic principles at stake, particularly the harm done to democracy if the status quo continues.In the Appendix we provide a list of recent research studies and resources available for those who wish to engage in more study of these important issues.

Arora, Himanshu, ‘Manifestations of Fake News: Possible Legal and Policy Issues to Be Considered before Formulating Any Law in India’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3636716, 4 June 2020)
Abstract: During this lockdown situation, we have witnessed array of rumors or fake news; from Amul Company shutting down its milk chilling centers to the effective use of ginger, lemon and honey to counter the virus or to dispersing or spraying of the medicine by helicopters. Clearly, the proliferation of inaccurate or misleading news is spiraling upwards, especially during COVID-19 Pandemic situation. Our mobile phones and social media accounts are flooded with fake posts, doctored videos and congenial but unverified theories (especially qua the origin of Corona Virus and its cure), which are quickly shared or forwarded, especially through Whatsapp, Tiktok and Facebook, and out of which some may tickle your fancies at one hand, but some may create tension and unrest amongst people at large. For instance, just couple of days ago, a video on social media went viral where the soldiers of two different armies were shown to be engaged in a provocative incursions and it was being claimed that Chinese soldiers are provoking the Indian army soldiers at the Ladakh Indo-China Border, but the original video was traced back to the year 2014 and pertaining to Arunachal Pradesh Border, though the Indian army has never avowed for the video as well. Such unverified claims or rumors are dangerous and have the ability to instill fear and terror in the minds of people and may cause chaos and disruption in the society and tensions between the countries.Hence, the question is that what is this concept of ‘Fake News’ and why it has assumed immense significance and it is also important to know that in what forms, it exists or reaches to us.

Ash, Elliott et al, ‘The Effect of Fox News on Health Behavior During COVID-19’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3636762, 27 June 2020)
Abstract: In the early weeks of the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Fox News Channel advanced a skeptical narrative that downplayed the risks posed by the virus. We find that this narrative had significant consequences: in localities with higher Fox News viewership — exogenous due to random variation in channel positioning — people were less likely to adopt behaviors geared toward social distancing (e.g., staying at home) and consumed less goods in preparation (e.g., cleaning products, hand sanitizers, masks). Using original survey data, we find that the effect of Fox News came not merely from its long-standing distrustful stance toward science, but also due to program-specific content that minimized the COVID-19 threat.

Bachmann, Sascha Dov, Doowan Lee and Andrew Dowse, ‘COVID Information Warfare and the Future of Great Power Competition’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3749784, 16 November 2020)
Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a golden age of information warfare. Russia and China—the two most prominent authoritarian regimes contraposing the liberal, rule-based international order the West has strived to build and promote—have prospered most during the current COVID crisis. We look at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) and Kremlin’s key COVID information warfare characteristics and explore how they are reshaping Great Power competition. We conclude with some suggestions regarding resilience and a joint counterstrategy.

Bechtold, Eliza, ‘Has the United States’ Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Exposed the Marketplace of Ideas as a Failed Experiment?’ (2020) 25(3) Communications Law 150–160
Abstract: Considers whether the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the public opinions voiced by certain high-profile individuals, corporations and political action committees, has revealed the marketplace of ideas, on which the principle of freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution is founded, to be a failed experiment.

Bellucci, Lucia, ‘Media Law, Illiberal Democracy and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Case of Hungary’ in Mathieu Deflem and DMD Silva (eds), Media and Law: Between Free Speech and Censorship (Emerald, 2021) 151–167
Purpose: This chapter aims to show how media law strongly contributed to shape in Hungary what has been pictured as a U-turn. This illiberal trend was subsequently strengthened during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Methodology/Approach: It considers that law also constitutes and not only orders political and social relationships. Law, including media law, has been in Hungary one of the main factors of change or rather of political-social construction. This chapter therefore moves from the study of positive law and analyzes Hungarian media laws within the theoretical framework of illiberal democracy, drawing from contributions to political science and socio-legal studies.
Findings: This chapter demonstrated that media laws have outlined in Hungary a centralized regulatory system with broad powers, which lacks political independence, therefore encouraging self-censorship and limiting freedom of expression and pluralism. These laws contributed to shape the illiberal U-turn occurred in the country before the pandemic, but the coronavirus offered the occasion to reinforce government powers, giving the leeway to rule with no or minimum scrutiny for an indefinite period and further limiting dissent. The analysis enabled to argue that neither the media regulation established during the past decade nor the laws adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic are compatible with a modern democracy.
Originality/Value: Based on existing literature, little research has been conducted on the appearance and endurance of non-democratic regimes, and supposedly even less within the context of the coronavirus pandemic which started only a few months ago, compared to the contributions available on democratization processes and democratic consolidation.

Billauer, Barbara Pfeffer, ‘Muzzling Anti-Vaxxer FEAR* Speech: Overcoming Free Speech Obstacles with Compelled Speech’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3780729, 6 February 2021)
Abstract: As the anti-vax industry continues to stoke fear and incite vaccine resistance, some means must be found to detoxify their false messages. Counterspeech, the preferred mode to deal with unfortunate rhetoric, I demonstrate, is both ineffective and counter-effective when it comes to scientific speech addressing health. I therefore investigate other free speech protections available to shield false anti-vax speech, concluding that while complete protection may exist in the context of political speech without proof of fraud, it is more limited in the context of commercial speech. I then investigate the commercial ties of anti-vax mechanisms used in the strikingly effective outreach targeting insular audiences: the conference and pamphlet vehicles. Research indicates that these vehicles incorporate fingerprints of commercial enterprise, thereby making them eligible for regulation under the doctrine of compelled speech. This approach allows for the requirement of imposing warning labels on pamphlets as well as conference advertising and marketing. This novel approach may provide the salutary benefit not obtainable by counterspeech.

Bolsover, Gillian and Janet Tokitsu Tizon, ‘Social Media and Health Misinformation During the US COVID Crisis’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3666955, 4 August 2020)
Abstract: Health misinformation has been found to be prevalent on social media, particularly in new public health crises in which there is limited scientific information. However, social media can also play a role in limiting and refuting health misinformation. Using as a case study US President Donald Trump’s controversial comments about the promise and power of UV light- and disinfectant-based treatments, this data memo examines how these comments were discussed and responded to on Twitter. We find that these comments fell into established politically partisan narratives and dominated discussion of both politics and COVID in the days following. Contestation of the comments was much more prevalent than support. Supporters attacked media coverage in line with existing Trump narratives. Contesters responded with humour and shared mainstream media coverage condemning the comments. These practices would have strengthened the original misinformation through repetition and done little to construct a successful refutation for those who might have believed them. This research adds much-needed knowledge to our understanding of the information environment surrounding COVID and demonstrates that, despite calls for the depoliticization of health information in this public health crisis, this is largely being approached as a political issue along divisive, polarised, partisan lines.

Bursztyn, Leonardo et al, ‘Misinformation During a Pandemic’ (NBER Working Paper No w27417, 1 June 2020)
Abstract: We study the effects of COVID-19 coverage early in the pandemic by the two most widely-viewed cable news shows in the United States – Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight, both on Fox News – on downstream health outcomes. We first document large differences in content between the shows and in cautious behavior among viewers. Through both a selection-on-observables strategy and a novel instrumental variable approach, we find that areas with greater exposure to the show downplaying the threat of COVID-19 experienced a greater number of cases and deaths. We assess magnitudes through a simple epidemiological model highlighting the role of externalities and provide evidence that misinformation is a key underlying mechanism. :

Carson, Andrea, ‘The Fake News Crisis: Lessons for Australia from the Asia-Pacific’ (Melbourne School of Government, Governing During Crises, Policy Brief No 12)
This Policy Brief makes the following key points:
(a) Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the spread of misinformation and disinformation online was a major global problem that can harm social cohesion, public health and safety, and political stability. The pandemic has highlighted how fake news about coronavirus and its treatments, even when spread innocently with no intention of causing harm, can cause real-world harm, and even death.(b) A lack of consensus among policymakers, media practitioners and academics on working definitions of fake news, misinformation and disinformation contribute to the difficulties in developing clear policies and measures to tackle this global problem.
(c) To try to mitigate confusion for readers of this Policy Brief, a simple and broad definition of ‘online misinformation’ is adopted: the spread of inaccurate or misleading content online. ‘Disinformation’, by contrast, is considered as: the spread of inaccurate or misleading content with conscious intent to mislead, deceive or otherwise cause harm. In this way, we consider online disinformation to be a substantial subset of the broad, overarching problem of misinformation. This is a similar position to that of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Fake news is an umbrella term that covers both misinformation and disinformation.
(d) The pandemic has emboldened many non-liberal states and fledgling democracies to crackdown on fake news through legislative means with threats of jail terms and heavy fines for those found in breach of the new laws.
(e) Indonesia and Singapore are among a group of early adopter states to play the role of both arbiter of what is online misinformation and the enforcer of laws against alleged misconduct. Critics argue these states are using their new laws to silence a wide spectrum of critics, with major implications for freedom of speech and expression, media freedom, political pluralism and democratic representation.
(f) So far, the Australian government has taken a voluntary regulatory pathway to tackle fake news. DIGI’s (Digital Industry Group Inc.) new voluntary Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation was launched in February 2021. It commits digital technology signatories to a range of measures to reduce the risk of harmful online misinformation and disinformation.

Caulfield, Timothy, ‘Does Debunking Work? Correcting COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media’ in Colleen M Flood et al (eds), Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 (University of Ottawa Press, 2020) 183
Abstract: A defining characteristic of this pandemic has been the spread of misinformation. The World Health Organization (WHO) famously called the crisis not just a pandemic, but also an ‘infodemic.’ Why and how misinformation spreads and has an impact on behaviours and beliefs is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon. There is an emerging rich academic literature on misinformation, particularly in the context of social media. In this chapter, I focus on two questions: Is debunking an effective strategy? If so, what kind of counter-messaging is most effective? While the data remain complex and, at times, contradictory, there is little doubt that efforts to correct misinformation are worthwhile. In fact, fighting the spread of misinformation should be viewed as an important health and science policy priority.

Coe, Peter, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Social Media during the Coronavirus Pandemic’ (2020) 25(3) Communications Law 119–122
Abstract: Comments on the use of social media in a positive way to bring people closer together and to disseminate vital information during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also observes its harmful use as a platform for spreading fake news, false information, and misleading and unethical reporting.

Cordoş, Alexandru, ‘The Efficiency of Legal Norms in Communication and Public Relations During the Coronavirus Pandemic in Romania’ (2021) 15(1) Fiat Iustitia 195–206
Abstract: The present study is the result of an empirical research of qualitative sociology of communication and public relations in the context of the ‘Coronavirus Pandemic in Romania’. Our hypothesis was that, just as in commercial communication, public relations take precedence over advertising, in the administrative and political context, public relations overwhelm public communication. We analyzed the relationship between the efficiency of transmitting legal norms through public communication. We analyzed the relationship between the efficiency of transmitting legal norms through administrative and political public communication, related to the ability to influence and divert public opinion of public relations conducted on social networks, but also in traditional media. We compared the influence of messages from one sphere or another on public opinion with the intention of highlighting the mechanisms of action of the ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake-news’ and to outline possible rules and legal procedures to limit influence.

Cox, Caitríona L, ‘“Healthcare Heroes”: Problems with Media Focus on Heroism from Healthcare Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2020) 46(8) Journal of Medical Ethics 510–513
Abstract: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the media have repeatedly praised healthcare workers for their ‘heroic’ work. Although this gratitude is undoubtedly appreciated by many, we must be cautious about overuse of the term ‘hero’ in such discussions. The challenges currently faced by healthcare workers are substantially greater than those encountered in their normal work, and it is understandable that the language of heroism has been evoked to praise them for their actions. Yet such language can have potentially negative consequences. Here, I examine what heroism is and why it is being applied to the healthcare workers currently, before outlining some of the problems associated with the heroism narrative currently being employed by the media. Healthcare workers have a clear and limited duty to treat during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can be grounded in a broad social contract and is strongly associated with certain reciprocal duties that society has towards healthcare workers. I argue that the heroism narrative can be damaging, as it stifles meaningful discussion about what the limits of this duty to treat are. It fails to acknowledge the importance of reciprocity, and through its implication that all healthcare workers have to be heroic, it can have negative psychological effects on workers themselves. I conclude that rather than invoking the language of heroism to praise healthcare workers, we should examine, as a society, what duties healthcare workers have to work in this pandemic, and how we can support them in fulfilling these.

‘DCMS House of Commons Committee Calls for New Online Harms Regulator Now’ [2020] (August) Computers and Law 39–40
Abstract: Considers the findings of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee’s report on ‘Misinformation on the COVID-19 Infodemic’, and how the Government’s online harms proposals might work in practice. Highlights its recommendations on the role of the Government’s proposed new online harms regulator.

Ding, Chunyan, ‘Fatal Lack of Information Transparency in Public Health Emergency: Lessons from the COVID-19 Outbreak in China’ (2020) 50(2) Hong Kong Law Journal 781
Abstract: This article examines the lack of information transparency on the part of the Chinese government as revealed in the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on the evidence of the lack of information transparency in the initial stage of this public health emergency, the article reviews how the Chinese public health emergency information system, which had been established in response to the 2003 SARS crisis, was implemented. It further analyses the fundamental reasons for the lack of information transparency despite the reporting, disseminating and early warning mechanisms that existed in the country. It finds that powerless centres for disease control and prevention, prioritisation of the political concern of social stability and harmonisation over public health, extremely tight governance of public opinions and inadequacies of the public health emergency information system with respect to new and emerging infectious diseases are the four major factors that combined to result in the lack of information transparency in the COVID-19 outbreak in China. The article identifies big lessons to be learned to promote information transparency in public health emergencies.

Douek, Evelyn, ‘Governing Online Speech: From “Posts-As-Trumps” to Proportionality and Probability’ (2021) 121(3) Columbia Law Review 759–834
Abstract: Online speech governance stands at an inflexion point. Platforms are emerging from the state of emergency invoked during the pandemic and lawmakers are poised to transform the regulatory landscape. The importance of what emerges from this moment can hardly be overstated: how platforms write and enforce the rules for what speech they allow on their services shapes the most important channels for communication in the modern era, and has profound consequences for individuals, societies, and democratic governance. Understanding how online speech governance arrived at this moment illuminates the tasks that the institutions created during this transformation must be designed to do. This history shows that where online speech governance was once dominated by the First Amendment tradition’s categorical and individualistic approach to adjudicating speech issues, that approach became strained and online speech governance now revolves around the principles of proportionality and probability. Proportionality requires governance to no longer focus on the speech interest in an individual post alone, but to also take into account other societal interests and place proportionate limitations on content where necessary. But the unfathomable scale of online speech governance makes the enforcement of rules only ever a matter of probability: content moderation will always involve error, and so the pertinent question is what error rates are reasonable and which kinds of errors should be preferred. Platforms’ actions during the pandemic have thrown into stark relief the centrality of these principles to online speech governance, but also how undertheorized they remain. This article reviews the nature and causes of this shift of online speech governance from a ‘posts-as-trumps’ approach to one of systemic balancing, and what this new era of content moderation requires of platforms and their regulators.

Fenster, Mark, ‘A “Public” Journey Through COVID-19: Donald Trump, Twitter, and the Secrecy of U.S. Presidents’ Health’ (2021) 8(1) Critical Analysis of Law 25–42
Abstract: Donald Trump ignored numerous governance norms in his one term as U.S. President, especially those that prescribe disclosure of official and personal financial information. His brief period of illness from COVID-19, which he broadcast to the world via his Twitter account, revealed the complexity of Trump’s relationship to the concept and norms of transparency that presume information’s necessity for a functional and accountable state. At the same time that Trump offered little in the way of coherent and authoritative information about his health, he also provided an enormous amount of seemingly ‘inside’ and direct accounts of the progress of his illness—indeed, much more than tradition and law appeared to require. This incident epitomized both Trump’s distinct, populist approach to transparency and transparency’s limitations as a concept of democratic governance.

‘Freedom of Speech’ (2020) July Public Law 558–560
Abstract: Reviews developments concerning freedom of expression, including: OFCOM’s publication of a note on broadcasting related to the coronavirus pandemic; the complaints received by OFCOM about the broadcast of a coronavirus-related interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke, and about comments made on ITV’s current affairs programme ‘This Morning’; and OFCOM’s publication of its review of public service broadcasting between 2014 and 2018.

Gabore, Samuel Mochona, ‘Western and Chinese Media Representation of Africa in COVID-19 News Coverage’ (2020) 30(5) Asian Journal of Communication 299–316
Abstract: In news production and dissemination, media represent communities, countries, and continents by constructing concepts, images, and identities as viewed by selected information sources. It is often assumed that foreign countries are labelled ‘Others’ by global media and misrepresented. This study aims to explore how differently Western and Chinese media source and frame events in Africa. Comparative content analysis of news coverage of COVID-19 prevention in Africa revealed that Western media used African official, African non-official, and Western non-official channels as information sources whereas Chinese media mainly used African and Chinese official sources. The result demonstrated that Western media covered events in Africa in Conflict, Negativity, Human interest, Impact, Eminence, and Novelty frames in positive, neutral, and negative tones whereas Chinese media covered mainly in Impact, Eminence and Novelty frames mostly in positive tone. Overall, the results suggest that Western media coverage of the events is not predominantly negative; and Chinese media coverage is uncommonly affirmative. The findings also suggest that sourcing shapes frames, tones, and representation of ‘Others’ by news media.

Geldenhuys, Kotie, ‘Disinformation Spreads Faster than the Real Threat: Research’ (2020) 113(6) Servamus Community-based Safety and Security Magazine 34–36
Abstract: During times of crises, pandemics and elections, unreliable and false information quickly surfaces. Such false information creates fear and often puts lives at risk. The ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has not been immune to the problem of rampant disinformation and the dangerous spread of disinformation about COVID-19 has to be tackled alongside the virus itself.

Gollust, Sarah E, Rebekah H Nagler and Erika Franklin Fowler, ‘The Emergence of COVID-19 in the U.S.: A Public Health and Political Communication Crisis’ 45(6) Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 967–981
Abstract: The coronavirus public health crisis is also a political-communication and health-communication crisis. In this commentary, we describe the key communication-related phenomena and evidence of concerning effects manifested in the U.S. during the initial response to the pandemic. We outline the conditions of communication about coronavirus that contribute toward deleterious outcomes, including partisan cueing, conflicting science, downplayed threats, emotional arousal, fragmented media, and Trump’s messaging. We suggest these have contributed toward divergent responses by media sources, partisan leaders, and the public alike, leading to different attitudes and beliefs as well as varying protective actions taken by members of the public to reduce their risk. In turn, these divergent communication phenomena will likely amplify geographic variation in and inequities in COVID-19 disease outcomes. We conclude with some suggestions for future research, particularly surrounding communication about health inequity and strategies for reducing partisan divergence in views of public health issues in the future.

Goodyear, Michael, ‘Fake News in the Time of COVID-19: Inherent Powers over False Public Health Speech’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3740639, 1 December 2020)
Abstract: The world has changed dramatically over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges and has caused a catastrophic loss of over 300,000 U.S. lives. This crisis has been compounded by an infodemic, an effusion of misinformation and fake news about COVID-19. This incorrect information has flooded social media and online platforms, confusing and misleading the American public. Yet U.S. constitutional law largely upholds fake news as protected free speech under the First Amendment. This legal reality has significantly compounded the COVID-19 crisis.But U.S. law is not limited to only constitutional enumerated powers. An underexamined approach to regulating fake news is the broad inherent powers of the federal government. Inherent powers are those innate to being a sovereign nation, and they have long been recognized under U.S. law in key areas, including in public health and censorship during times of military conflict. Inherent powers have followed three lines of justification: long-standing international practice, powers naturally pursuant to constitutionally enumerated powers, and emergency powers. Fake news about public health, and COVID-19, in particular, is a strong match for all three of these models under the applicable balancing tests. In addition, traditional First Amendment justifications are particularly weak in the case of COVID-19 misinformation. This makes inherent government powers over public health an underexamined, but particularly promising avenue for regulating extremely harmful misinformation about COVID-19.

Gradoń, Kacper, ‘Crime in the Time of the Plague: Fake News Pandemic and the Challenges to Law-Enforcement and Intelligence Community’ (2020) 4(2) Society Register 133–148
Abstract: The Paper explores the problem of fake news and disinformation campaigns in the turmoil era of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The Author addresses the problem from the perspective of Crime Science, identifying the actual and potential impact of fake news propagation on both the social fabric and the work of the law-enforcement and security services. The Author covers various vectors of disinformation campaigns and offers the overview of challenges associated with the use of deep fakes and the abuse of Artificial Intelligence, Machine-, Deep- and Reinforcement-Learning technologies. The Paper provides the outline of preventive strategies that might be used to mitigate the consequences of fake news proliferation, including the introduction of counter-narratives and the use of AI as countermeasure available to the law-enforcement and public safety agencies. The Author also highlights other threats and forms of crime leveraging the pandemic crisis. As the Paper deals with the current and rapidly evolving phenomenon, it is based on qualitative research and uses the most up-to-date, reliable open-source information, including the Web-based material.

Hamilton, Rebecca J, ‘Governing the Global Public Square’ [2021] Harvard International Law Journal (forthcoming)
Abstract: Social media platforms are the public square of our era – a reality that has been entrenched by the widespread closure of physical public spaces in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. And this online space is global in nature, with over 2.5 billion users worldwide. Its governance does not fall solely to governments. With the rise of social media, important decisions about what content does - and does not - stay online are made by private technology companies. Reflecting this reality, cutting-edge scholarship has converged on a triadic approach to understanding how the global public square operates - with states, users, and technology companies marking out three points on a ‘free speech triangle’ that determines what content appears online. While offering valuable insights into the nature of online speech regulation, this scholarship—which has influenced public discussion—has been limited by drawing primarily on a recurring set of case studies arising from the U.S. and the European Union. As a result, the free speech triangle has locked in assumptions that make sense for the U.S. and the EU, but that regrettably lack broad applicability. This Essay focuses our attention on the global public square that actually exists, rather than the narrow U.S. and European-centric description that has commanded public attention. Drawing on interviews with civil society, public sources, and technology company transparency data, it introduces a new set of case studies from the Global South, which elucidate important dynamics that are sidelined in the current content moderation discussion. Drawing on this broader set of materials, I supplement the free speech triangle’s analysis of who is responsible for online content, with the question of what these actors do. In this way, activity within the global public square can be grouped into four categories: content production, content amplification, rule creation, and enforcement. Analyzing the governance of the global public square through this functional approach preserves important insights from the existing literature while also creating space to incorporate the plurality of regulatory arrangements around the world. I close with prescriptive insights that this functional approach offers to policymakers in a period of unprecedented frustration with how the global public square is governed.

Harrison, Ruairí, ‘Tackling Disinformation in Times of Crisis: The European Commission’s Response to the Covid-19 Infodemic and the Feasibility of a Consumer-Centric Solution’ (2021) 17(3) Utrecht Law Review 18–33
Abstract: Since 2016, the European Commission has sought to take a proactive stance in addressing disinformation, with this stance evidently influenced by the divisive nature of disinformation and its ability to dissuade participation and trust in democratic institutions. Yet as the coronavirus pandemic brought fear and uncertainty to Europe and the wider world, how well equipped was the Commission’s approach for the onslaught of health disinformation which accompanied the pandemic? Reflecting on the EU’s soft law approach both before and after this ‘Infodemic,’ this article critically analyses the inherent difficulties in regulating disinformation and looks ahead to the Commission’s proposed approach into the future. Finally, considering these inherent regulatory difficulties and the impact of the Infodemic, this paper reflects upon the feasibility of a ‘consumer-centric’ solution to tackling disinformation in the European Union.

Häyry, Matti, ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic: Healthcare Crisis Leadership as Ethics Communication’ (2021) 30(1) Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 42–50
Abstract: Governmental reactions to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as ethics communication. Governments can contain the disease and thereby mitigate the detrimental public health impact; allow the virus to spread to reach herd immunity; test, track, isolate, and treat; and suppress the disease regionally. An observation of Sweden and Finland showed a difference in feasible ways to communicate the chosen policy to the citizenry. Sweden assumed the herd immunity strategy and backed it up with health utilitarian arguments. This was easy to communicate to the Swedish people, who appreciated the voluntary restrictions approach and trusted their decision makers. Finland chose the contain and mitigate strategy and was towards the end of the observation period apparently hesitating between suppression and the test, track, isolate, and treat approach. Both are difficult to communicate to the general public accurately, truthfully, and acceptably. Apart from health utilitarian argumentation, something like the republican political philosophy or selective truth telling are needed. The application of republicanism to the issue, however, is problematic, and hiding the truth seems to go against the basic tenets of liberal democracy.

Honryo, Takakazu and Makoto Yano, ‘Idiosyncratic Information and Vague Communication’ (2021) 115(1) American Political Science Review 165–178
Abstract: This study explores why, at critical moments, governments may withhold vital information from the public. We explain this phenomenon by what we call idiosyncratic events, or events independent of the information receiver’s state-contingent payoff functions. Idiosyncratic events often influence the receiver’s belief on the sender’s performance. If such events are correlated with the events determining the payoff functions, the sender may withhold information so as to improve his image. This result may be applied to the manipulation of information regarding a number of recent real-world phenomena, including the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 and the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

Jovanović, Srđan Mladenov, ‘Discursive Governmental and Media Response to Covid-19: The Case of Serbia’ (2020) 4(2) Society Register 95–108
Abstract: Serbia’s government, led by Aleksandar Vučić, has in scholarship been classified as semi-authoritarian, using Marina Ottaway’s classification. Its media have also been described as being in heavy, biased support of the government. Scholarship has further revealed that the Vučić-led, post-2012 government, has thrown the country backwards in time, with corruption and affairs being the primary instance by which the regime can be described. Expectedly, the response of the government and the government-supporting media to the COVID-19 pandemic has been less than professional. The initial response included official government press conferences in which the novel coronavirus was deemed to be ’funny’ and that, in the middle of the pandemic explosion and increased deathrate in Italy, Serbia’s population was advised to go to Italy for ’shopping’. The media furthermore tried to pin the pandemic to Serbia’s opposition alleged attempts to topple the government via ’coronavirus propaganda’. This article proposes to tackle the government’s and their supporting media’s responses to COVID-19 in February/March 2019 from a Discourse Analytical perspective.

Karanicolas, Michael, ‘Even in a Pandemic, Sunlight Is the Best Disinfectant: COVID-19 and Global Freedom of Expression’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3726892, 8 November 2020)
Abstract: In times of war, the right to speak freely is often the first casualty. As global leaders have come to use the language of war to describe their efforts to stop COVID-19, it leads to natural questions on the extent to which freedom of expression might be compromised in order to protect public health. In particular, governments around the world have enacted new policies targeting misinformation as the pandemic has spread, or increased enforcement of existing rules. While the World Health Organization has warned of an ‘infodemic’ of fake news which ‘spreads faster and more easily than this virus’, human rights mechanisms have expressed alarm at the impacts of the accompanying crackdown on freedom of expression. This paper discusses the global human rights implications of aggressive measures targeting the spread of COVID-19-related misinformation. Part I discusses the international human rights standards with regard to misinformation. Part II explores various regulatory responses to misinformation amongst COVID-19 thus showing the impact on international human rights. Part III explores the applicability of international human rights law, specifically the standards for derogation in key human rights documents, to the current exceptional circumstances of COVID-19. Part VI asses the measures against international human rights standards, finding significant cause for concern, particularly if these enforcement postures become normalized. Part V offers alternative solutions to the human rights challenges posed by health misinformation, particularly restrictions which are more carefully targeted and less open to abuse as well as transparency measures to promote trust and accountability in public institutions. Part VI concludes.

Kempen, Annalise, ‘Fighting Myths as Hard as We Fight the Spread of COVID -19’ (2021) 114(2) Servamus Community-based Safety and Security Magazine 70–71
Abstract: By now we have become used to reading about the conspiracy theories that are accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic. When we first reported about the disinformation being spread about COVID-19 in Servamus: June 2020, we tackled various issues including so-called cures for the virus and the claim that 5G is responsible for the rapid spread of the virus. Ironically, the 5G claim is still going around like wildfire. But conspirators will always find something new to create doubt and since the first vaccines against COVID-19 have already been given to millions around the world, this is one of the latest COVID-19 topics about which fake news is spread.

Koltay, András, ‘The Punishment of Scaremongering in the Hungarian Legal System. Freedom of Speech in the Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3735867, 23 November 2020)
Abstract: Scaremongering is restrained by criminal law as a limitation to freedom of speech in Hungarian law. Without relevant case law, free speech commentators had rarely discussed the provision until the government’s actions taken in order to step up against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the following amendment of the Criminal Code in Spring 2020 brought the subject back into the field of public debates. The article analyses the constitutional issues related to the limitation of scaremongering, and takes the two constitutional court decisions in this subject as guideline.

Kovaleva, NN, SA Anichkin and AS Anisimova, ‘Legal Aspects of Information Threats in the Form of “Fakes” in the Conditions of Spread of COVID-19’ in Research Technologies of Pandemic Coronavirus Impact (RTCOV 2020) (Atlantis Press, 2020) 222–226
Abstract: The article discusses issues related to the spread of fake information during a pandemic. It is noted that the situation with coronavirus infection COVID-19 has led to significant changes in the habitual way of life of citizens - there has been a massive digitalization of most spheres of life, which has brought in both positive and negative aspects. One of the negative trends of what is happening is the widespread spread of false information about coronavirus infection. The research provides data from a survey of citizens in relation to fakes. The analysis of the regulatory legal framework of a number of foreign countries, including the Russian Federation, is carried out. It is noted that in order to combat the spread of fake information, including in the context of coronavirus infection COVID-19, coordinated actions are needed between federal, regional and municipal authorities.

Kreps, Sarah E and Doug Kriner, ‘Medical Misinformation in the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3624510, 10 June 2020)
Abstract: The World Health Organization has labeled the omnipresence of misinformation about COVID-19 an ‘infodemic’ that threatens efforts to battle the public health emergency. However, we know surprisingly little about the level of public uptake of medical misinformation and whether and how it affects public preferences and assessments. We conduct a pair of studies that examine the pervasiveness and persuasiveness of misinformation about the novel coronavirus’ origins, effective treatments, and the efficacy of government response. Across categories, we find relatively low levels of true recall of even the prominent fake claims. However, many Americans struggle to distinguish fact from fiction, with many believing false claims and even more failing to believe factual information. An experiment offers some evidence that corrections may succeed in reducing misperceptions, at least in some contexts. Finally, we find little evidence that exposure to misinformation significantly affected a range of policy beliefs and political judgments.

Krupenkin, Masha et al, ‘If a Tree Falls in the Forest: COVID-19, Media Choices, and Presidential Agenda Setting’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3697069, 22 September 2020)
Abstract: During a time of crisis Americans turn their attention to the news media for critical information about what to expect, who is affected, and how to behave. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, public safety experts warned that the consequences of a misinformed population would be particularly dire due to the serious nature of the threat and necessity of severe individual collective action to keep the population safe. Thus, those elites who possess the power to set the agenda of the conversation bear a huge responsibility for the general welfare. Among the various agenda-setting mechanisms available to the president is daily press conferences which provide a unique opportunity to leverage public exposure, accelerated by the state of crisis. Yet, mainstream media’s daily viewership is many times larger than the president’s press conference and we explore their narratives surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic through automated text analysis of complete transcripts of national cable, network, and local news. Of particular importance, we characterize the differences in which topics were covered and how they were covered by various cable media sources. Our analysis reveals polarized narratives around blame, racial and economic disparities, and scientific conclusions about COVID-19. The media is influenced by the president’s agenda, even for cable news channels that are consumed by audiences that typically do not support him, but we found strong evidence that the media’s choices mediate, and ultimately dominate, the agenda-setting abilities of the president’s daily press conferences.

Macleod, Hugh, ‘COVID-19 and the Media: A Pandemic of Paradoxes’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3852816, 3 May 2021)
Abstract: Following the COVID-19 pandemic, amid collapsing revenues and a rising torrent of online misinformation and gender-based hate speech, States have a human rights-based obligation to ensure the survival of public interest media, most urgently through subsidies that can be funded by proper taxation of multinational tech companies. That is the leading conclusion of a new report by International Media Support (IMS), which assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operation of the global media sector. Drawing on reports from over 30 IMS partners worldwide, on surveys conducted by international journalism watchdogs through 2020, and supported by in-depth interviews with eight journalists working in public interest media in select IMS partner countries, this report provides comprehensive insight into what it terms ‘a pandemic of paradoxes’. The paper was launched at the opening of the academic conference of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day 2021.

Manley, Stewart, ‘Critical Speech in Southeast Asian Grey Literature During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2021) 21(1) Human Rights Law Review 233–251
Abstract: Little academic research has been conducted on critical speech in Southeast Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic.1 This article aims to partially address this gap through an empirical case study of op-eds published on the website of the civil society program Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Research and Education in ASEAN/Southeast Asia (SHAPE-SEA). Intended for ‘those who find it challenging to access more mainstream media’, the op-eds provide a snapshot of how civil society groups, scholars and students who otherwise might be marginalised from conventional academic discourse are exercising their freedom of expression in grey literature during a time of global crisis. The study asks, who authors these commentaries? What are they writing about? Which countries are their focus? How far are they willing to go in criticising government policies?

Mantl, Josef, Julia M Puaschunder and Bernd Plank, ‘Communication in the Digital Century’ in (Conference Paper, Unequal World Conference: On Human Development, United Nations, New York 28-29 September 2020) (2020)
Abstract: As never before in the history of humankind, communication is digital and international today. Global digital communication skills determine access to information, economic potential and social wellbeing. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic having exacerbated digitalization trends demands for growing an inclusive and favorable digital culture for all users. Since COVID-19 imposed workplace shutdowns around the globe, the workforce has shifted online. Digital marketing and networking online nowadays should follow novel codes of conduct to share quality data. Good communication ethos is required for upholding e-ethics in anonymous virtual space that is also intruded by anonymous agents and noised by fake news and alternative facts. While network effects were gained through physical interaction and dense urban areas prior to COVID-19, nowadays we primarily meet in virtual online space of social media platforms. Socially distanced we have become virtually closer than ever before as we connect to re-inspire and thrive together on the web. Digital space is today’s business card that forms a virtual corporate identity. The design of the personal online homepage or digital media account grant social digital illusions in a virtual reality that can live eternally. Individuals must also be encouraged to use a right to delete information in anonymous virtual space to uphold e-ethics. The strict COVID-19 lockdowns, that were at a time enacted in all major economies, brought along online communities suddenly standing up for long-held dreams of equality. orporations are now under pressure of boycott threats and online censorship that has shifting from a historically governmental means to an online global collective soul’s judgment. Being scrutinized in a truly international digital arena drives corporations to integrate the wider stakeholder community. In an anonymous virtual space, freedom of speech should be ennobled by a culture of mutual respect and constructive critique codes of ethics.

Marco-Franco, Julio Emilio et al, ‘COVID-19, Fake News, and Vaccines: Should Regulation Be Implemented?’ (2021) 18(2) International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 744
Abstract: We analysed issues concerning the establishment of compulsory vaccination against COVID-19, as well as the role of misinformation as a disincentive - especially when published by health professionals - and citizen acceptance of measures in this regard. Data from different surveys revealed a high degree of hesitation rather than outright opposition to vaccines. The most frequent complaint related to the COVID-19 vaccination was the fear of side effects. Within the Spanish and European legislative framework, both compulsory vaccination and government regulation of FN (Fake News) appear to be feasible options, counting on sufficient legal support, which could be reinforced by additional amendment. However, following current trends of good governance, policymakers must have public legitimation. Rather than compulsory COVID-19 vaccination, an approach based on education and truthful information, persuading the population of the benefits of a vaccine on a voluntary basis, is recommended. Disagreements between health professionals are positive, but they should be resolved following good practice and the procedures of the code of ethics. Furthermore, citizens do not support the involvement of government authorities in the direct control of news. Collaboration with the media and other organizations should be used instead.

Marshall, Adam and Gunita Singh, ‘Access to Public Records and the Role of the News Media in Providing Information About COVID-19’ (2020) 11(1) Journal of National Security Law & Policy 199–212
Jurisdiction: USA
Abstract: The public’s reliance on journalists and news media to stay informed is critical during a public health crisis. In their article, Adam Marshall and Gunita Singh survey and analyze how public access to government records and meetings has been impacted by the pandemic while also focusing on the key role the new media plays in informing the public about COVID-19. Marshall and Singh examine how access to public records has been limited at the federal, state, and local levels through restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act, actions taken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of State, and local governments which have suspended access to information. The article also focuses on how the news media has navigated its role in disseminating information during the pandemic despite various roadblocks which limits its access.

Marsons, Lee and Sarah Nason, ‘Freedom of Expression’ [2020] (October) Public Law 772–773
Abstract: Notes the OFCOM sanction imposed on Loveworld Limited for a news programme and sermon containing potentially harmful claims relating to the coronavirus pandemic, including unsubstantiated claims linking it to 5G technology, which risked undermining viewers’ trust in official health advice. Details the £100,000 fine imposed by OFCOM on Lord Production Inc Ltd for failure to comply with broadcasting rules in a programme on homosexuality and Islam.

Mattos, Alexandre Magalhães de et al, ‘Fake News in Times of COVID-19 and Its Legal Treatment in Brazilian Law’ (2021) 25(Special issue) Escola Anna Nery Article e20200521
Objective: to reflect on the legal treatment given to the Fake News cases related to COVID-19 in the field of Brazilian law.
Method: Reflection study based on the consequences of applying the Brazilian legal framework to the Fake News cases on COVID-19. The sources come from another study with gaps left in the sense of applications by the legal system. For discussion, the framing of false news to the legal system was marked out.
Results: They come from a previous study that identified and grouped as False News found in the Ministry of Health database by themes, a saber: speeches by health authorities, therapeutics, preventive measures, prognosis of the disease and vaccination. Final considerations and conclusion for practice: It was possible to conclude that the practice of sharing messages, images, audios and / or videos performed by several members of social networks, without the concern of verifying whether they are true, is an act that can be configured as a crime.

Milanovic, Marko and Michael N Schmitt, ‘Cyber Attacks and Cyber (Mis)Information Operations During a Pandemic’ (2020) 11(1) Journal of National Security Law & Policy Special Covid-19 Issue 247-284
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by reprehensible cyber operations directed against medical facilities and capabilities, as well as by a flood of misinformation. Our goal in this article is to map out the various obligations of states under general international law law and under human rights law with regard to malicious cyber and misinformation operations conducted by state and non-state actors during the pandemic. First, we consider cyber operations against health care facilities and capabilities, including public health activities operated by the government, and how such operations, when attributable to a state, can violate the sovereignty of other states, the prohibitions of intervention and the use of force, and the human rights of the affected individuals. Second, we perform a similar analysis with regard to state misinformation operations during the pandemic, especially those that directly or indirectly affect human life and health, whether such misinformation is targeting the state’s own population or those of third states. Finally, we turn to the positive obligations that states have to protect their populations from hostile cyber and misinformation operations, to the limits that human rights law imposes on efforts to combat misinformation, and to protective obligations towards third states and their populations. We argue that international law can play a robust role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most part, the parameters of the relevant legal rules are reasonably clear. But significant areas of uncertainty remain. For instance, at least one state, wrongly in our view, rejects the existence of the general international law rule most likely to be breached by COVID-19-related cyber operations, sovereignty. Another major issue is the extraterritorial application of the human rights obligations to respect and protect the rights to life and health in the cyber context, which we examine in detail.It is difficult to find anything positive about this horrific global pandemic. However, perhaps it can help draw attention to the criticality of moving forward the international cyber law discourse among states much more quickly than has been the case to date. Many states have been cautious about proffering their interpretation of the applicable law, and to some extent rightfully so, but caution has consequences and can leave us normatively ill-prepared for the next crisis. Some states have condemned the COVID-19-related cyber operations, although seldom on the basis of international law as distinct from political norms of responsible state behavior. Hopefully, they will add legal granularity to future statements. But all states, human rights courts, human rights monitoring bodies, the academy, the private sector and NGOs must take up the challenge presented by this tragic pandemic to move the law governing cyberspace in the right direction.

Naughton, James, ‘How International Governmental COVID-19 Measures Impacted Freedom of Speech Around the World’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3852028, 24 May 2021)
Abstract: A brief comment on COVID-19’s impact on the freedom of speech in a number of countries.

Neuwirth, Rostam J, ‘The Global Regulation of “Fake News” in the Time of Oxymora: Facts and Fictions about the Covid-19 Pandemic as Coincidences or Predictive Programming?’ (2021) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law (advance article, published 13 April 2021)
Abstract: The beginning of the twenty-first century saw an apparent change in language in public discourses characterised by the rise of so-called ‘essentially oxymoronic concepts’, i.e., mainly oxymora and paradoxes. In earlier times, these rhetorical figures of speech were largely reserved for the domain of literature, the arts or mysticism. Today, however, many new technologies and other innovations are contributing to their rise also in the domains of science and of law. Particularly in law, their inherent contradictory quality of combining apparently antagonistic suppositions challenges the traditional dualistic mode of reasoning and binary logic. As reflected in terms like fake news, alternative facts or conspiracy theories, these concepts are seen as a threat to the rule of law and legal certainty and have been described as harbingers of an age of disinformation or post-truth. The challenge posed by these apparently contradictory concepts requires a closer look at the premises that guide our legal thinking and a more integrated theory of the senses and their role in law, as captured by the terms ‘legal synaesthesia’ and ‘legal semiotics’. It also calls for an inquiry into the mind’s functioning generally and how it processes information in the creative process of decision making, linking thoughts and actions as well as facts and fictions. Based on the qualification of ‘fake news’ as an oxymoron, this article critically examines the deficiencies in a dichotomous distinction between fact and fiction exemplified by information about the pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in an attempt to clarify the principal issues for a global regulatory debate regarding ‘fake news’.

Parmet, Wendy E and Jeremy Paul, ‘COVID-19: The First Posttruth Pandemic’ (2020) 110(7) American Journal of Public Health 945–946
Abstract: Introduction: A successful public health response to outbreaks such as COVID-19 depends on broad dissemination and widespread acceptance of accurate information. Yet, in recent weeks, inaccurate information and deceptive information have been plentiful. Even national leaders have offered misleading and sometimes false accounts of the risks facing the United States and the speed of vaccine development. The barrage of false information has helped to erode trust in public health leaders and hinder efforts to contain the pandemic. Unless the public trusts that public health measures are grounded in the best available science, even if that science is incomplete and changing, individuals cannot be expected to follow public health recommendations, such as to shelter in place. Political leaders have not been alone in generating this climate of doubt. Many celebrities, pundits, and even some local health officials have downplayed the dangers for months. Rumors about the virus’s origins, impending national lockdowns, and imminent cures have also circulated widely. This cacophony helps explain why spring breakers partied on Florida beaches while cities elsewhere shut down.

Pavia, José Francisco and Timothy Reno, ‘Disinformation Campaigns and Fake News in Pandemic Times’ (2021) European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin, (SCE 5) 1-6
Abstract: 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point in peoples’ information consumption habits. In an environment of extreme enforced isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people have increasingly been compelled to turn to online sources for information and guidance. Online news consumption rose considerably as quarantines began. Social media, already one of the primary venues of social activity for millions of people who could no longer meet and talk in person, naturally became a primary source for news. In this environment, misinformation and disinformation has flourished enormously. For millions, they face not only the effects of long term social isolation, but also economic anxiety as they face an uncertain future in a fast-changing economy that threatens to leave many behind. All of these factors have combined to create a “perfect storm” which is making more people vulnerable to disinformation campaigns (Courtney, 2021). These “campaigns” are a threat to our democracies and our way of life. They create social unrest, alarmism, disbelief, chaos, undermine public security and ultimately erode the global standing of liberal democracies. What roles can law enforcement agencies, governments and the European Union play in countering disinformation campaigns? Are they sufficiently aware of these menaces? Are they already tackling these challenging issues? In this paper we will endeavour to explore these issues and propose potential policy actions.

Parvin, Gulsan et al, ‘Media Discourse About the Pandemic Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in East Asia: The Case of China and Japan’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3603875, 18 May 2020)
Abstract: Irrespective of the nations and media, from 20 January 2020 to the date, the term ‘coronavirus’ is uttered and or written most frequently. Recent emergence of this coronavirus related disease, which is called COVID-19, first reported from Wuhan city of the capital of Hubei Province of China (mainland) during December 2019, and this virus has caused today’s pandemic. As of 14 April 2020, this pandemic has affected 1,925,811 persons across 232 countries and territories. Not only every sectors of all these affected countries are concerned to the pandemic but also all sorts of medias are imposing their hughest concerns to present news, perceptions and opinions related to the outbreak. Notably, the English version of e-newspapers of affected countries played a pivotal role in informing the world about the spread and infection, preparedness and awareness situation, institutional efforts and such other critical issues. During this pandemic created by COVID-19, how English version of e-newspapers of first two affected countries,China and Japan, which are not English speakimg and have different socio-economic and political settings, have highlighted their news and informed global communities are essential to analyze. It is now well known that COVID-19 has imposed high impacts on every aspect of our lives. Health, society, economy, politics, environment, sports, technology, and media all are now somehow shaped by the outbreak of COVID-19. How experts’ thoughts and perceptions published in newspapers are highlighting, and developing these aspects of our lives is crucial to understand. Therefore, this paper aims to explore the thoughts and highlights presented by the two leading English newspapers in China and Japan from January to March. Within three months, both in China and Japan media shifted their focuses from health and preparedness to economy, politics and social welfare. However, the shift and focus were different in China and Japan. Governance and social welfare were key concerns of China; in contrast, global politics received the highest attention by the experts of Japan`s newspaper. Understanding and analysis of this study can give guidance to other countries’ news media to play effective roles to manage health crisis. It also offer direction to the leading media to shape their role and contribution to society and policy making during crisis and catastrophe.

Pijpers, Peter BMJ and PaL Ducheine, ‘Influence Operations in Cyberspace: How They Really Work’ (Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No 2020–61, 24 September 2020)
Abstract: Covid-19 is the latest, but will not be the last pretext for spreading fabricated information. Topics like Covid-19 can and will be used for influencing foreign States in a deliberate way. So, is this new? No, influencing has been on-going for ages. But what is new, is the domain of cyberspace enabling fabricated news to spread fast and effectively. Much is written about influencing people via social media. But how do influence operations via cyberspace work? And what is the added value of cyberspace in that context?

Pollicino, Oreste, Giovanni De Gregorio and Laura Somaini, ‘The European Regulatory Conundrum to Face the Rise and Amplification of False Content Online’ (2020) 19(1) The Global Community Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence 319
Abstract: In the last couple of years, the dissemination of false content online has raised serious concerns worldwide. As a result, states have attempted to tackle disinformation in different ways. Regulating disinformation requires solving the following dilemma: How and to what extent can we regulate (false) speech? It is not by chance that democratic and authoritarian countries have followed different regulatory paths in this field. The social media landscape has contributed to increasing the complexity in the fight against disinformation. The pandemic has then amplified the challenges coming from the spread of false content. This work aims to outline anti-disinformation trends in Europe. By focusing on Europe as one of the most interesting areas of the world to analyse regulatory attempts concerning disinformation, the primary goal of this work is to provide a nuanced approach in this field, going beyond the mere description of supranational and legislative regulation and looking at the European regulatory framework under a multilevel constitutional perspective.

Pullicino, Lourdes, ‘COVID-19: The Impact on News Media’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3640199, 8 June 2020)
Abstract: The paper looks at the formidable challenges that have shaken the news media industry over the past weeks. The COVID-19 outbreak has aggravated to critical proportions the threats that have long plagued news media for the public good. Ironically, as is the case in all times of crises, this comes at a time when trusted, accurate, impartial and timely information is more essential than ever. The pandemic has ravaged newsrooms, intensified the pressure on media freedom, produced an avalanche of disinformation and put journalists’ lives at risk. In this fast-moving, treacherous landscape, could there also be scope for opportunities?

Rabilu, Auwalu and QaribuYahaya Nasidi, ‘COVID-19: Tele-Regulation of Broadcast Coverage of Public Health Emergencies in Nigeria’ (2021) 3(1) Ianna Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 28–40
Abstract: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has presented a severe challenge to broadcasters globally. How broadcast media stations in Nigeria responded through their coverage is deserving of scholarly attention. How regulatory agencies performed their role during the out of the virus is equally worthy of scholarly attention.

Radcliffe, Damian, ‘COVID-19 Has Ravaged American Newsrooms : Here’s Why That Matters’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3693903, 20 July 2020)
Abstract: COVID-19 has ripped through the industry. In the United States alone, over 36,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their pay cut. The trendlines for this, however, pre-date the pandemic. This article examines the causes of the long-term decline seen by local newspapers, the impact of this on communities and democratic engagement, and looks ahead at some potential solutions and policy discussions aimed at resolving this crisis.

Radu, Roxana, ‘Fighting the “Infodemic”: Legal Responses to COVID-19 Disinformation’ (2020) 6(3) Social Media + Society (advance article, published 30 July 2020)
Abstract: Online disinformation has been on the rise in recent years. A digital outbreak of disinformation has spread around the COVID-19 pandemic, often referred to as an ‘infodemic.’ Since January 2020, digital media have been both the culprits of and antidotes to misinformation. The first months of the pandemic have shown that countering disinformation online has become as important as ensuring much needed medical equipment and supplies for health workers. For many governments around the world, priority COVID-19 actions included measures such as (a) providing guidance to social media companies on taking down contentious pandemic content (e.g., India); (b) establishing special units to combat disinformation (e.g., EU, UK); and (c) criminalizing malicious coronavirus falsehood, including in relation to public health measures. This article explores the short and potential long-term effects of newly passed legislation in various countries directly targeting COVID-19 disinformation on the media, whether traditional or digital. The early actions enacted under the state-of-emergency carve new directions in negotiating the delicate balance between freedom of expression and online censorship, in particular by imposing limitations on access to information and inducing self-restraint in reporting. Based on comparative legal analysis, this article provides a timely discussion of intended and unintended consequences of such legal responses to the ‘infodemic,’ reflecting on a basic set of safeguards needed to preserve trust in online information.

Rajaretnam, Thillagavathy and Angus Young, ‘Social Media, Its Use at Work and More: An Australian Perspective’ (2020) 26(6) Computer and Telecommunications Law Review 145–150
Note: See in particular the section entitled ‘The Future of Work, Covid-19 and Social Media’.
Abstract: The internet and social media are powerful instruments for mobilisation of people across the world and there is little doubt that the digital technology and social media have a significant impact on many aspects of social life and beyond. What started as a new tool for person-to-person communication has become something more, including a marketing tool for businesses. Corporations are catching up with the use of social media. They have begun to embrace the social media revolution by harnessing the benefits of social media as a communication, engagement and marketing tool. On the other end of the scale, many organisations are sceptical about the benefits of social media and perceive it as an inefficient use of time. The use of social media is either strongly discouraged at work or banned entirely. Besides, social media is increasingly more important for businesses that could post unknown risks as well as opportunities with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution. Consequently, the use of social media platforms at the workplace deserves more attention.

Ratzan, Scott C et al, ‘COVID-19: An Urgent Call for Coordinated, Trusted Sources to Tell Everyone What They Need to Know and Do’ [2020] National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Perspectives_
_Extract: COVID-19 is a test of the global health polity’s credibility in addressing a legitimate public health threat with an unknown trajectory. This sort of an emergent threat requires government, media, technology platforms, and the private sector to step up. A responsible communication response to the pandemic requires cooperation and coordination among all sectors. The public needs reliable and actionable information to help them understand their risk of exposure as they go about their lives in apartment complexes, airports, schools, supermarkets, or at health clinics. The public needs clarity and transparency about travel bans, quarantines, personal protection efforts, and social distancing (e.g., closing mass transit, closing schools, or cancelling sporting events). Moreover, the public needs the assurance that as more is learned about this emerging infection, the information they get from trusted sources reflects both accurately and clearly what the health care establishment does and does not know about COVID-19. Indeed, there are data voids and the public health community does not have all of the evidence needed to reliably predict the trajectory of this infection. Unfortunately, this uncertainty creates a ripe environment for both fear and misinformation.

Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein, ‘Anti-Vaccine Misinformation and the Law: Challenges and Pitfalls’ (2021) 18(1) Indiana Health Law Review 85–94

Rhee, Kasey, Charles Crabtree and Yusaku Horiuchi, ‘Framed National Images Influence Policy Attitudes Among Targeted Foreign Citizens’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3776777, 27 January 2021)
Abstract: Many countries increasingly try to manipulate their national image abroad. Yet, we know relatively little about their ability to shape foreign public opinion and attract support for desired policy outcomes through those images. Using a survey experiment about a Russian donation to the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, we cast light on an under-investigated, theoretically important aspect of transnational opinion formation---the media’s capacity, via framing, to facilitate or impede a country’s efforts to change their image. We find that successful transnational image management depends on whether the media present a foreign country’s actions as sincerely or insincerely motivated. However, the image changes induced by media frames do not translate to attitudinal changes across all policy issues related to that country. Research on foreign public opinion should not assume that diplomatic maneuvers go unfiltered, nor that they can shift opinions on multiple policy domains.

Romano, Alessandro et al, ‘The Scale of COVID-19 Graphs Affects Understanding, Attitudes, and Policy Preferences’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3588511, 29 April 2020)
Abstract: Mass media routinely present data on COVID-19 diffusion with graphs that use either a logarithmic scale or a linear scale. We show that the choice of the scale adopted on these graphs has important consequences on how people understand and react to the information conveyed. In particular, we find that when we show the number of COVID-19 related deaths on a logarithmic scale, people have a less accurate understanding of how the pandemic has developed, make less accurate predictions on its evolution, and have different policy preferences than when they are exposed to a linear scale. Consequently, merely changing the scale the data is presented on can alter public policy preferences and the level of worry about the pandemic, despite the fact that people are routinely exposed to COVID-19 related information. Providing the public with information in ways they understand better can help improving the response to COVID-19, thus, mass media and policymakers communicating to the general public should always describe the evolution of the pandemic using a graph on a linear scale, at least as a default option. Our results suggest that framing matters when communicating to the public.

Roudik, Peter et al, ‘Freedom of Expression during COVID-19’ (Law Library of Congress Legal Report, September 2020)
Abstract: This report, prepared by the research staff of the Law Library of Congress, surveys legal acts regulating mass media and their ability to distribute information freely during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report focuses on recently introduced amendments to national legislation aimed at establishing different control measures over the media outlets, internet resources, and journalists in 20 selected countries around the world where adoption of such laws has been identified, namely: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, El Salvador, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Moldova, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Sander, Barrie and Nicholas Tsagourias, ‘The COVID-19 Infodemic and Online Platforms as Intermediary Fiduciaries under International Law’ (2020) 11(2) Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies 331–347
Abstract: Reflecting on the covid-19 infodemic, this paper identifies different dimensions of information disorder associated with the pandemic, examines how online platform governance has been evolving in response, and reflects on what the crisis reveals about the relationship between online platforms, international law, and the prospect of regulation. The paper argues that online platforms are intermediary fiduciaries of the international public good, and for this reason regulation should be informed by relevant standards that apply to fiduciary relationships.

Santos Rutschman, Ana, ‘Mapping Misinformation in the Coronavirus Outbreak’ (Saint Louis University Legal Studies Research Paper No 2020–14, 10 March 2020)
Abstract: The coronavirus outbreak has sent ripples of fear and confusion across the world. These sentiments—and our collective responses to the outbreak—are made worse by rampant misinformation surrounding the new strain of the virus, COVID-2019. In this post, I survey some of the most pervasive areas of tentacular coronavirus-related misinformation that has proliferated online—as well as the responses of social media companies like YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok that may ultimately prove inadequate given the magnitude of the problem.

Shankar, Aayush, ‘Mushrooming Like Coronavirus? Tackling the Menace of Fake News by Way of an Epistemic, Legal and Regulatory Discourse’ (2021) (unpublished-available on PhilArchive)
Abstract: Fake news is a topic that we all know well, and that continues to play a prominent role in the social harms besieging the globe today. From the recent storming of the Capitol Hill in the United States to the siege of Red fort over Farm-laws in India, online disinformation via social media platforms was the main driving force catapulting the protestors far and wide. In the backdrop of such social harms, this Research Article examines the epistemic, legal and regulatory discourse surrounding the disinformation bubble in India and asks for the deployment of ‘Lessig’s Decentred Regulatory Model’ — the potential Framework solution to regulate social media platforms in order to curb the menace of ‘fake news’.

Sherwin, Brie, ‘Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory: Law, Politics, and Science Denialism in the Era of COVID-19’ (2021) 8(3) Texas A&M Law Review 537–581
Abstract: With COVID-19, we are facing the most serious public health threat of our lifetime. Now, more than ever, we need experts and sound scientific advice to guide critical decision-making during the pandemic. With conspiracy theories and other similar rhetorical weapons being used to discredit our scientific experts, we face a myriad of misinformation, mistruths, and all-out attacks on our experts, breeding distrust between the public and the policymakers leading the fight against the pandemic. As President Trump took office, scientists were routinely denigrated and isolated. Furthermore, science denialism has permeated its way up to the highest levels of government, resulting in disastrous public policy decisions that have been detrimental to environmental and public health. Funding was cut for much-needed research on zoonotic-borne diseases, the U.S. government pulled its support from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, and well-respected scientists were removed from various advisory roles in agencies. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these decisions went unnoticed by the general public. But, in courtrooms over the past thirty years, judges have recognized the danger of fake experts and acted as gatekeepers to ensure that experts are credible and that science is reliable. The use of Daubert in the courtroom has provided judges with a tool for allowing expert testimony that has met certain indicia of reliability, so jurors can focus on making factual determinations instead of judging whether the sources of the expertise should be trusted. Without a similar gatekeeping function in society, citizens must make those determinations on their own. Scientists and advocates of science should employ their own rhetorical methods to restore the credibility and importance of science in protecting our environment and now our health. Change can only truly come from the ground up. Citizens must actually believe that the climate is changing; they must believe that the health advice they are receiving from public health experts is accurate and trustworthy enough to follow. It is time to put science first—we can only do that if we stop science denialism in its tracks and restore resources and trust in our scientific community.

Simoni, Alessandro, ‘Limiting Freedom During the Covid-19 Emergency in Italy: Short Notes on the New “Populist Rule of Law”’ (2020) 20(3) Global Jurist (advance article, published 9 June 2020)
Abstract: The implications of the severe lockdown regime introduced in Italy in the context of the Covid-19 emergency can be correctly understood only through a broader look at how the text of the provisions adopted by the government is transformed by media reporting and law enforcement practice. From such a perspective, it appears clearly that we are witnessing nothing more than the most recent segment of a populist approach to the use of legal tools, the history of which starts well before the pandemic.

Simpson, Jeffrey, ‘The Media Paradox and the COVID-19 Pandemic’ in Colleen M Flood et al (eds), Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 (University of Ottawa Press, 2020) 201
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic struck the media financially, depressing advertising revenues and imperiling already shaky balance sheets. At the very moment when demand for news rose, as it usually does in crises, the media had fewer financial and personnel resources to meet that demand. Similarly, the media generally has few reporters and editors educated and experienced in science, as opposed to politics, economics, and culture. Nonetheless, the media mobilized the resources it had and did a creditable job covering the facts of the crisis as provided by public health officials and political leaders, who took their cue from those officials. Perhaps belatedly, the media did focus on problems revealed by the crisis, notably in the long-term care and nursing home sectors.

Smith, Robert and Mark Perry, ‘Fake News and the Convention on Cybercrime’ (2021) 7(3) Athens Journal of Law 335-357

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent term of the United States President, Donald Trump, brought the term "fake news" to the attention of the broader community. Some jurisdictions have developed anti-fake news legislation, whilst others have used existing cybercrime legislation. A significant deficiency is the lack of a clear definition of fake news. Just because a person calls something "fake news" does not mean that it is indeed false. Especially during pandemics, the primary aim should be to have misinformation and disinformation removed quickly from the web rather than prosecute offenders. The most widely accepted international anti-cybercrime treaty is the Convention on Cybercrime developed by the Council of Europe, which is silent on fake news, the propagation of which may be a cybercrime. There is an Additional Protocol that deals with hate speech, which the authors consider to be a subset of fake news. Using examples from Southeast Asia, the paper develops a comprehensive definition of what constitutes fake news. It ensures that it covers the various flavours of fake news that have been adopted in various jurisdictions. Hate speech can be considered a subset of fake news and is defined as the publication or distribution of fake news with the intention to incite hatred or violence against ethnic, religious, political, and other groups in society. The paper proposes some offences, including those that should be applied to platform service providers. The recommendations could be easily adapted for inclusion in the Convention on Cybercrime or other regional conventions. Such an approach is desirable as cybercrime, including propagating fake news, is not a respecter of national borders, and has widespread deleterious effects.

Sommer, Udi and Or Rappel-Kroyzer, ‘Reconceptualizing the Watchdog: Comparing Media Coverage of COVID-19 Response in Democracy’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3698310, 23 September 2020)
Abstract: What is the role of the watchdog of democracy in the Information Age? We augment a theory that focuses on accountability as the key element of watchdog journalism and propose an innovative framework concentrating on structure, content and timing of media coverage. Methodologically, we introduce artificial intelligence analyses and data mining to a comparative field largely dominated by econometrics and case studies. We investigate the variance between media coverage in Anglo-American democracies during the first months of the COVID-19 crisis, by comparing the USA, Canada and New Zealand. All 27,089 articles published in the New Zealand Herald, The Globe and Mail and the New York Times from February-May 2020 were harvested. AI analyses suggest meaningful differences in structure (networks of COVID-19 articles), content (politicized coverage) and timing. Compared with their US counterpart, the watchdogs of democracy in Canada and NZ barked louder, clearer and 2 weeks earlier.

Steinert-Threlkeld, Zachary et al, ‘Crisis Is a Gateway to Censored Information: The Case of Coronavirus in China’ (21st Century China Center Research Paper (forthcoming) No ID 3756577, 2021)
Abstract: Crisis and anxiety motivate people to track news closely. We examine the consequences of thisincreased motivation in authoritarian regimes that normally exert significant control over access tomedia. Using the case of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, we show that crisis spurs censorship circumvention to access international news and political content on websites blocked in China. Once individuals have circumvented censorship, they not only receive more information about the crisis itself, but the crisis becomes a gateway to unrelated information that the regime has long censored. Through this mechanism, crisis both increases attention to information relevant to individuals’ current circumstances and incidentally increases access to information that the regime considers sensitive.

Stojanovska-Stefanova, Aneta and Hristina Runcheva Tasev, ‘The Mass Media Freedom in a State of Emergency: Infodemic vs. COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2020) 15(1) SEEU Review 43–59
Abstract: Information, as well as freedom of expression and freedom of the media are essential for democratic society and fundamental characteristic of modern states. The year 2020 will be remembered as a year of pandemic caused from Covid-19 (coronavirus) and a year of response to unexpected challenge that the spread of the virus caused. In the times of pandemic and any type of crisis, the media always plays a key role in informing the public all over the Globe. This paper aims to make theoretical descriptive research and analysis of the influence of coronavirus on news consumption, the role of media in communication and presentation of important developments during pandemic. The authors present an overview of the media system and the latest developments in the EU in preventing fake news related to the pandemic. We conclude that media plays key role in informing the citizens during pandemic and therefore they have increased responsibility in providing reliable information. At the same time, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the media have been challenged with parallel outbreaks of disinformation and misinformation about the virus, ranging from fake coronavirus cures, false claims and harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. Disinformation can in turn speed up the spread of disease, hinder effective public health responses, as well as create confusion, fear and distrust. We highlight the fundamental function of creating awareness regarding the topic based on facts, and the need of media for preventing panic and fostering people’s understanding by ‘checking the source and information twice’.

Temple-Raston, Dina and Harvey Rishikof, ‘Falsehoods and the Patois of Pandemics: A Playbook’ (2020) 11(1) Journal of National Security Law & Policy 213–227
Abstract: Dina Temple-Raston and Harvey Rishikof’s paper explores how falsehoods and misinformation have affected the public’s response to pandemics—both past and present. It describes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s field manual on epidemiology, and discusses New York’s failure to follow the manual at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper also outlines the broad legal framework federal and state governments can use to communicate or enforce their powers in response to pandemics; and concludes by identifying unaddressed pandemic-related disinformation issues on social media platforms.

Unger, Wayne, ‘How Disinformation Campaigns Exploit the Poor Data Privacy Regime to Erode Democracy’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3762609, 14 December 2020)
Abstract: The U.S. is under attack. It is an information war, and disinformation is the weapon. Foreign and domestic actors have launched information operations and coordinated campaigns against western democracies using dis/misinformation. While the U.S. is both a disseminator and recipient of global or regional disinformation campaigns, this article focuses on the U.S. and its people as the recipient.From Russian election interference to COVID-19 conspiracies, disinformation campaigns harm the presumptive trust in democracy, democratic institutions, and public health and safety. While dis/misinformation is not new, the rapid and widespread dissemination of dis/misinformation has only recently been made possible by technological developments that enable mass communication and persuasion never seen before.Today, social media, algorithms, personal profiling, and psychology, when mixed together, enable a new dimension of political microtargeting—a dimension that disinformers exploit for their political gain. These enablers share a root cause—the poor data privacy and security regime in the U.S.At its core, democracy requires independent thought, personal autonomy, and trust in democratic institutions because an independently thinking and acting public is the external check on power and authority. However, when the public is misinformed or disconnected from fact and truth, the fundamental concept of democracy erodes—the public is no longer informed, independently thinking, and autonomous to elect its representatives and check their power. Disinformation, not rooted in fact and truth, attacks the core of democracy, and thus, the public check on governmental power. This article addresses a root cause—the lack of data privacy protections—of the dis/misinformation dissemination and its effects on democracy. This article explains, from a technological perspective, how personal information is used for personal profiling, and how personal profiling contributes to the mass interpersonal persuasion that disinformation campaigns exploit to advance their political goals.

van der Donk, Berdien, ‘Should Critique on Governmental Policy Regarding COVID-19 Be Tolerated on Online Platforms? An Analysis of Recent Case-Law in the Netherlands’ (2021) Journal of Human Rights Practice (forthcoming)
Abstract: This policy and practice note describes and discusses two recent decisions by the District Court in Amsterdam regarding the applicability of YouTube’s and Facebook’s Community Guidelines on COVID-19 misinformation. The decisions (Café Weltschmerz /YouTube and Smart Exit/Facebook) illustrate the tense intersection between, on the one hand, the possibility to express critique on the government’s policy to fight the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Netherlands, and on the other hand, the prevention of (dis)information with the potential to harm public health. The author will point out that the two decisions, although covering merely the same subject matter, differ significantly in argumentation regarding the (scope of the) application of the freedom of expression. Analysing this divergence in argumentation will show that the root of the difference can be traced back to a different valuation of the role of the online platforms regarding the dissemination of speech. A debate on this divergence is needed to prevent inconsistency in future decisions and contributes to the broader discussion on content regulation in the European Union.

Vese, Donato, ‘Governing Fake News: The Regulation of Social Media and the Right to Freedom of Expression in the Era of Emergency’ [2021] European Journal of Risk Regulation (advance article, published online 11 October 2021)
Abstract: Governments around the world are strictly regulating information on social media in the interests of addressing fake news. There is, however, a risk that the uncontrolled spread of information could increase the adverse effects of the COVID-19 health emergency through the influence of false and misleading news. Yet governments may well use health emergency regulation as a pretext for implementing draconian restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, as well as increasing social media censorship (ie chilling effects). This article seeks to challenge the stringent legislative and administrative measures governments have recently put in place in order to analyse their negative implications for the right to freedom of expression and to suggest different regulatory approaches in the context of public law. These controversial government policies are discussed in order to clarify why freedom of expression cannot be allowed to be jeopardised in the process of trying to manage fake news. Firstly, an analysis of the legal definition of fake news in academia is presented in order to establish the essential characteristics of the phenomenon (Section II). Secondly, the legislative and administrative measures implemented by governments at both international (Section III) and European Union (EU) levels (Section IV) are assessed, showing how they may undermine a core human right by curtailing freedom of expression. Then, starting from the premise of social media as a ‘watchdog’ of democracy and moving on to the contention that fake news is a phenomenon of ‘mature’ democracy, the article argues that public law already protects freedom of expression and ensures its effectiveness at the international and EU levels through some fundamental rules (Section V). There follows a discussion of the key regulatory approaches, and, as alternatives to government intervention, self-regulation and especially empowering users are proposed as strategies to effectively manage fake news by mitigating the risks of undue interference by regulators in the right to freedom of expression (Section VI). The article concludes by offering some remarks on the proposed solution and in particular by recommending the implementation of reliability ratings on social media platforms (Section VII).

Wang, Di and Zhifei Mao, ‘From Risks to Catastrophes: How Chinese Newspapers Framed the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Its Early Stage’ (2021) 23(3/4) Health, Risk & Society 93–110
Abstract: Beck identified delocalisation, uncalculability and non-compensability as three characteristics of modern risk, the recognition of which lies at the core of transforming insubstantial risks into urgent catastrophes. This study aimed to empirically test and enrich Beck’s theory by examining how the Chinese media framed COVID-19 during the first month of the pandemic’s outbreak, a critical period for the media’s staging of risk. We observed that the usage of the consequences and treatment responsibility frames lies at the core of transforming COVID-19 from a risk to a catastrophe. Initially, journalists framed the virus as conquerable at a local level, with calculable consequences and compensable solutions. In the second phase, after the central government and national health experts stepped in, journalists admitted that COVID-19 was uncontrollable at a local level, starting to transform the risk into a national catastrophe, and called for enhanced solutions to controlling the spread of the virus. In the third phase, journalists started to transform the local catastrophe into a global crisis, referring to the global community as an information source. By building a bridge between risk theory and framing theory, we found that, in the case of COVID-19, delocalisation, incalculability, and non-compensability were crucial factors in risk virtualisation. We argue that the different usage of the consequences and treatment responsibility frames can either prevent the transformation of a risk into a catastrophe or facilitate this transformation process.

Wardanie, Ismaya Hera, ‘Hoax Law Enforcement During Covid 19 Pandemic In Indonesia’ (2020) 1(1) Jurnal Liga Hukum 128–136
Abstract: The spread of hoax information is currently circulating more and more. The public receives hoax information more than once a day. Social media is the most important channel in the spread of hoaxes. The community becomes doubtful and doubtful about the effects of the hoax phenomenon in Indonesia. This situation is used by a group of people who are not responsible for inciting and inciting hatred. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to obtain a description of the interaction of communication hoaxes on social media and efforts to anticipate it. The research method used is a qualitative approach through hoax cases that are in an uproar in the community regarding issues arising from the pandemic Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19). Public opinion emerged that the information was valid because a lot of news hoax was spread and repeated through existing social media. There is a meaningful approach to anticipating the spread of hoaxes in the community, namely the institutional, technological and literacy approaches.

Whittaker, Alison, ‘No News Is No News: COVID-19 and the Opacity of Australian Prisons’ (2021) 33(1) Current Issues in Criminal Justice 111–119
Abstract: The abysmal conditions facing people inside Australian prisons are often difficult to draw public interest on. During COVID-19, when these conditions pose an even greater danger to the dignity, wellbeing and lives of people inside, why has mainstream media reporting on conditions – including personal protective equipment (PPE) and soap provision, lockdown, health resources and communication – been so sparse? This article will explore the tightening regulatory and legal net of communications and media coming from inside prisons to families, community, and media during COVID-19, and in the years preceding it. It will then outline the significance of these communications, access, and publication restrictions to the media and policy advocacy for COVID-19 decarceration in Australian prisons and the Australian abolition conversation generally.

Widmann, Tobias, ‘Fear, Hope, and COVID-19: Strategic Emotional Rhetoric in Political Communication and Its Impact on the Mass Public’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3679484, 23 August 2020)
Abstract: Emotions play a vital role in the behaviour of individuals during pandemics. Fear, for instance, increases the likelihood that citizens follow public health advice while hope can induce false op­timism which can lead to lower levels of protective behavior. However, do political parties make strategic use of emotional appeals during pandemics? Furthermore, do these strategies succeed in actually influencing public opinion and thereby potentially citizens’ behaviour? To answer these questions, I use word embeddings and neural network classifiers to analyze social media output of political parties and different samples of the public in Germany during the first wave of the pandemic. Vector autoregression analyses (VAR) of time series show that the number of new COVID­19 cases per day predicts specific emotional rhetoric. While government parties increase fear and decrease hope, populist parties show the opposite behavior indicating a strategy of down­ playing the crisis. Furthermore, comparing retweet volumes of political messages to emotional expressions in almost 200,000 public tweets suggests that populist radical right parties, rather than government parties, succeed in influencing public opinion, even beyond partisan lines. This find­ing can carry important implications for the level of protective behavior among the population.

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