The Azure Forum Webinar on “Global disinformation campaigns during the Covid-19 crisis”

This webinar, which is supported by University College Dublin, will bring together a panel of expert speakers with different professional and regional backgrounds to examine global disinformation campaigns during the Covid-19 crisis, including their likely impact on national and international peace and security. European and Chinese experts will examine recent announcements in Europe pertaining to Chinese disinformation activity during the global Covid-19 crisis, providing their perspectives on near term and likely long term implications arising from these developments. Our speakers will consider the debates surrounding disinformation/misinformation/conspiracy theories in connection with 5G networks and related policy developments underway in a number of countries. They will consider future EU-China relations, great power relations and what this might all mean domestically in China after the pandemic subsides.

While charges have been made against Russia on many occasions, this seems to be the first time that the EU has publicly named China as a source of such disinformation. The European Commission and High Representative continue to assess their steps to fight disinformation around the pandemic, having been tasked by European leaders in March this year to counter disinformation and reinforce resilience of European societies. In this conversation-style discussion, our panel of experts will explore attempts by foreign actors to influence citizens and debates, with particular focus on EU citizens, where “targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns are a recognised weapon of state and non-state actors…” (High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell). Notably, what distinguishes the ‘dubious veracity’ of claims that have been made during the crisis by both Chinese and U.S. officials? What motivations underlie alleged Chinese activity? Other questions to consider include what national and international responses are specifically needed in a time of crisis to deal with targeted influence operations by foreign actors and certain third countries (such as China for the purpose of this panel), which have been called out as having engaged in targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns in the EU, its neighbourhood, and globally?

These are especially pertinent questions where it is likely that future global crises could bring about similar information voids to those first witnessed in early 2020. Moreover, has China been successful in presenting its governance model as more effective than other models when dealing with crises? Finally, what do our experts make of recent analysis surrounding Beijing’s increasingly aggressive behaviour and so-called ‘wolf-warrior’ diplomacy?

“Global disinformation campaigns during the Covid-19 crisis”

Steve Conlon

Vice-President for Corporate Intelligence, Rivada Networks

Rogier Creemers

Assistant Professor, The Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University

Professor Philip N. Howard

Director of the Oxford Internet Institute and Professor of Internet Studies, Balliol College, University of Oxford

LU Chuanying

Secretary General of the Cyberspace International Governance Research Center & Associate Research Fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS)

Chairperson: Caitríona Heinl

The Azure Forum for Contemporary Security Strategy & Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD

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