Tracking News Manipulation by State Actors

Bad Actors in News Reporting

COVID-19 offered authoritarian regimes, such as China and Russia, an opportunity to manipulate news media to serve state ends. Researchers conducted a scalable proof-of-concept study for detecting state-level news manipulation. Using a scalable infrastructure for harvesting global news media, and using machine-learning and data analysis workflows, the research team found that both Russia and China appear to have employed information manipulation during the COVID-19 pandemic in service to their respective global agendas. This report, the second in a series, describes these efforts, as well as the analytic workflows employed for detecting and documenting state-actor malign and subversive information efforts. This work is a potential blueprint for a detective capability against state-level information manipulation at the global scale, using existing, off-the-shelf technologies and methods. This report is part of RAND’s Countering Truth Decay Initiative, which considers the diminishing role of facts and analysis in political and civil discourse and the policymaking process.

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