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The European Commission was taken by surprise. In his efforts to fight disinformation, he developed instruments to monitor Russia. However, new research shows that the anti-vaccination disinformation campaign that many European citizens fell victim to actually originated in the United States.
The Center for Countering Digital Hate, an international NGO with offices in London and Washington that seeks to disrupt the architecture of hate and disinformation online, has made some valuable and perhaps surprising discoveries.
In a 40 page report published in March, Counter-hate center found that only twelve (!) anti-vaccine individuals were responsible for almost two-thirds of the anti-vaccine content circulating on social media platforms over a two-month period.
The report demystifies their messages, explains how this small group of determined anti-vaccines is responsible for a tidal wave of disinformation, and makes recommendations on how platforms can address it by enforcing their standards.
These messages from the American anti-vaccine “gurus” have been picked up, adapted and disseminated in many other countries and languages. Some companies have been shown to be more vulnerable than others, such as Eastern Europe, where vaccination rates remain remarkably low, even among vulnerable groups or key workers.
Republica.ro, a Romanian anti-disinformation Facebook group with more than 52,000 members, has looked into the issue. Its editor, Loredana Voiculescu, is the author of research which connects evangelical communities with anti-vaxxer attitudes in Romania.
Research in theological high schools has shown that the lowest vaccination rates among school workers are found in Orthodox, Adventist and Pentecostal institutions in Bucharest (the lowest vaccination rate, 32%, is in theological high school Pentecostal “Emanuel”).
Conversely, at the Greek Catholic high school, up to 78.9% of employees are vaccinated. However, evangelical school teachers interviewed for the research denied a theological motivation behind the low vaccination rate.
There is no doubt that among evangelical communities in the United States, the problem of vaccine reluctance is real. The American Evangelical Christian Right is also responsible for misinformation, such as vaccines containing microchips. ‘White evangelical resistance hinders vaccination effort‘wrote the New York Times in April.
It may not be widely known, but evangelical churches in the United States found fertile ground in Romania and Bulgaria after the end of the Cold War. They are particularly influential within Roma communities, which suffer from widespread segregation and discrimination, with limited access to medical care or appropriate vaccines.
The fact that the vaccination rate among the Roma population in Eastern Europe remains extremely low to be in some way also linked to the activity of local evangelical churches, in addition to poverty and social exclusion?
This question – which should go beyond the Roma and apply to the entire population – should be addressed to researchers and state services responsible for counterintelligence and the fight against disinformation.
In the meantime, it is evident that the EU is not prepared to face the massive (and unfortunately very effective) disinformation campaign that can potentially destabilize its health security, coming from an allied country like the United States.
On COVID-related issues, EU-produced ‘Disinformation Review’ continues focus on russia but such a simple-minded approach is an insult to the intelligence of European taxpayers.
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As predicted, COVID recovery planning has reached maximum administrative capacity in many Member States, to the detriment of the EU’s long-standing structural investment program. Officials say that “at best” they only expect to see projects for a fifth of member states’ cohesion spending plans by the end of the calendar year.
And the European Commission is preparing to propose either a recommendation or delegated act to extend the use of the COVID certificate travel within the EU. The certificate will expire twelve months after the second vaccine, which means travelers will need to be tested or receive the third vaccine.
In one of the largest contracts of its kind, Google has entered into a five-year agreement with Agence France-Presse (AFP) which will see the tech giant is paying to reuse journalistic content. The deal comes after 18 months of negotiations between the two sides amid media complaints that tech companies are using stories in search results without payment, slashing ad revenue.
European homeowners are turning to hydrogen to heat their homes, but a new study suggests that may not be the way to go, despite “the huge hype” surrounding hydrogen. “The role of hydrogen for climate neutrality is crucial but secondary to direct electrification,” write the authors, who predict that hydrogen will account for 16-25% of final energy demand in Europe by 2050 .
Meanwhile, the Commission is preparing for the launch of an EU-wide database to certify the carbon footprint of hydrogen and other low-carbon fuels in a harmonized way. Carbon certification of hydrogen production – currently 96% dependent on fossil fuels – is seen as crucial to introduce some transparency and traceability in the emerging EU market for low carbon fuels.
And in accordance with its low carbon strategy, the French government aims to make agriculture greener by developing carbon sequestration in soils. French farmers welcome the strategy but call for stronger aid to make the transition financially sustainable.
The UK and the European Union appear to be moving closer to a compromise on the Northern Ireland protocol after a week of soothing rhetoric from both sides.
In Bosnia, the coal miners fear that the “green revolution” will shut down the country’s 11 remaining coal mines, which once employed and supported thousands of Bosnian citizens as the pride of Communist Yugoslavia. “Production is steadily declining, as is the number of employees. People don’t feel safe and are looking for an alternative, ”said a minor.
Pay attention to…
- High Representative Josep Borrell chairs the Foreign Affairs Council on Development.
- Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas is traveling to Turkey to discuss the situation at the EU-Belarus border.
- World Education Week until November 21.
The views are those of the author.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]