COVID-19 fake news in Moldova
By Maria Dulgher in Moldova.org
27 May 2020
More and more Moldovans have to deal with fake news every day. Unfortunately, a part of population believes them. According to a survey conducted by the WatchDog.MD community, in cooperation with CBS Research, the degree of acceptance of various false statements indicates an extremely high level of trust in such manipulations among Moldovan citizens.
For example, when asked about quite a few popular fake statements that circulate the whole world regarding the novel coronavirus, the survey participants answered the following:
- 50.4% of respondents believe that the virus is no more dangerous than a flu and that it was intentionally made to destroy the economy;
- 37.8% of respondents admitted that the virus was created by Bill Gates, in order to introduce nano-chips in the bodies and control them;
- 37,2% of questioned people think that the COVID-19 virus was created in a Chinese laboratory;
- 35,9% of them said the pandemic is an excuse to impose a global Government that will rule the whole world;
- 33,4% of participants consider garlic a remedy for coronavirus;
- 32.7% of persons who answered the survey dangerously consider that the virus is a myth and everything is just a lie;
- 32,3% of them are sure that only old people get infected and die;
- 32,2% of survey participants believe that democratic regimes have bigger troubles with managing the crisis than the dictatorial ones;
- 29.7% of persons said the EU will collapse due to the novel virus;
- 28.8% of respondents fear the COVID-19 tests are already infected when getting tested.
And these are, by far, not all false statements some Moldovans declared as being true during the survey. Some respondents think that the virus is spread in the Republic of Moldova through the 5G technology (11.7%), even though there is no such technology used in the country yet. Others claimed that the European Union didn’t offer any support to Moldova during the pandemic crisis (21.3%), despite the existing facts they can easily check.
Out of 1003 respondents, only one denied absolutely all false or manipulating statements.
At the same time, 45% of the Moldovan citizens who answered the opinion poll don’t trust at all or trust very little the World Health Organisation as a source of information. 5.2% of them don’t even know anything about the organisation.
When it comes to the local information sources, the survey respondents claimed that they merely find out what’s new by watching TV (77.2%), by accessing web pages (42.2%), various social media platforms (35.7%), such as Facebook, Odnoklasniki, Instagram and Vkontakte, or talk to family members (12.7%), friends and neighbours (15.1%).
Another important aspect is that only 1.4% of respondents inform themselves in any other language than Romanian, Russian or both. Even so, 16.3% of survey participants said it is rather hard or very hard for them to understand what news are accurate and whether the information presented is true or not.
A crucial source of disinformation for people of Moldova, which is not mentioned in the options of the survey though, is the church. Lately, the Moldovan Orthodox Church spread dangerous fakes about COVID-19 vaccination, nano-chipping and 5G.
The survey was conducted at the national level between May 5-11, being part of the project “Facilitating crisis communication and accountability as a civic response to COVID-19 pandemic in Moldova”. It was implemented with the support of the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation of the German Marshall Fund and involved 1003 persons aged 18 years and over.
The study measured political trends, geo-political preferences, media consumption, as well as the impact of manipulative rhetoric, false news and conspiracy theories in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.