Disinformation tactics used by the Conservative Party during the 2019 general election could be undermining the public’s trust in their coronavirus messaging, new research has found.
Researchers from King’s College London found the Tories employed “overt disinformation” with a “new level of impunity” to secure votes just months before the pandemic hit.
Tactics such as altering a video of Sir Keir Starmer and posing as a fact-checker on Twitter during a leaders’ debate were rolled out at an industrial rate – which could be impacting the government’s ability to effectively communicate with citizens during the coronavirus crisis.
Authors note that the government “wants citizens to believe the message that it is ‘succeeding’ in controlling the epidemic, despite its recent electoral record of using disinformation tactics and admitting it unapologetically”.
They also noted that the period since the 2016 EU referendum, which has seen two general elections, two Conservative and two Labour leadership elections, has meant party-political campaigning “continuing for a lot longer than it normally would”.
The report called for more research to be done across multiple platforms to examine how false information spreads and takes root, calling claims that “Facebook, or bots, or the Russians are the core threat” a “misdiagnosis” of the problem.