Media Law / Communication / Information

This section includes literature on freedom of speech, misinformation, disinformation and access to information.

Abazi, Vigjilenca, ‘Truth Distancing? Whistleblowing as Remedy to Censorship during COVID-19’ (2020) 11(2) European Journal of Risk Regulation Special Issue-‘Taming COVID-19 by Regulation’ 375-381
Abstract: In the COVID-19 pandemic, whistleblowers have become the essential watchdogs disrupting suppression and control of information. Many governments have intentionally not disclosed information or failed to do so in a timely manner, misled the public or even promoted false beliefs. Fierce public interest defenders are pushing back against this censorship. Dr Fen and Dr Wenliang were the first whistleblowers in China to report that a new pandemic was possibly underway, and ever since, numerous other whistleblowers around the world have been reporting on the spread of the virus, the lack of medical equipment and other information of public interest. This paper maps the relevant whistleblowing cases in China, the USA and Europe and shows that many whistleblowers are initially censored and face disciplinary measures or even dismissals. At the same time, whistleblowing during the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn public attention to the shortcomings of institutional reporting systems and a wider appreciation of whistleblowers as uniquely placed to expose risk at early stages. Ultimately, whistleblowing as a means of transparency is not only becoming ever less controversial, but during COVID-19 it has become the ‘remedy’ to censorship.

Abbas, Ali Haif, ‘Politicizing COVID-19 Vaccines in the Press: A Critical Discourse Analysis’ (2022) 35(3) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 1167–1185

Abstract: Undoubtedly and unfortunately, COVID-19 pandemic has been politicized in media see Abbas (Int J Semiot Law, 2020), Rui Zhang (Media Asia 48:89–107, 2021). Although vaccines play a crucial role in eliminating the pandemic, they have been politicized by media. This article aims to show how COVID-19 vaccines are politicized in the press. The article collects some selected reports on vaccines taken from American and Chinese media. The reports are analyzed according to an analytical framework suggested by the researcher. The framework and data collection and description are clearly presented in the method section. Based on data analysis, the article shows that COVID-19 vaccines have been politicized. The study recommends that diseases and vaccines should not be politicized. In other words, we should respect and trust science and our scientists for no other purpose than to reach herd immunity and overcome a dangerous pandemic that has taken and is still taking thousands of innocent lives.

Abrusci, Elena, Sam Dubberley and Lorna McGregor, ‘An “Infodemic” in the Pandemic: Human Rights and Covid-19 Misinformation’ in Carla Ferstman and Andrew Fagan (eds), COVID-19, Law and Human Rights: Essex Dialogues (School of Law and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex, 2020) 287–296

Agustiwi, Asri, Raka Widya Nugraha and Dania Rama Pratiwi, ‘Implementation of Law Number 11 of 2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions Against the Rise of Hoax Culture During Covid-19 Pandemic in Indonesia’ (2020) 3(1) Surakarta Law and Society Journal 55–66
Abstract: This article aims to find out the implementation of Law No. 11 of 2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions against the spread of hoaxes during the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia as well as how to prevent the growing culture of hoax information spreading in Indonesia. The research method used is a normative method with the study of the Law, while the secondary data material used is the study library as well as the approach of laws and concepts. The result obtained is Law No. 11/2008 jo No. 19/2016 Article 28 paragraphs 1 and 2 has been effective because it can limit the wiggle room of the perpetrators of news and hate speech. More specifically, the perpetrator can be ensaned with other relevant Articles namely Article 311 and 378 of the Consumer Order, Article 27 paragraph 3 of Law No. 19 of 2016 on Electronic Information and Transactions. The role of society, journalists and parents is indispensable also in preventing the dissemination of such fake news. Many steps can be taken, especially as the reader should not immediately believe there needs to be a study by comparing an information with other information. Keywords: hoax, Covid-19, Electronic Information And Transaction Act.

Akhmetyanova, Nailya, Iuliia Saitbattalova and Ekaterina Poliakova, ‘State and Legal Regulation of the Flow of Media Information about Coronavirus Infection COVID-19’ (IX International Scientific and Practical Conference “Current Problems of Social and Labour Relations" (ISPC-CPSLR 2021) (2022) 10–13
Abstract: The article examines the quality of informing the population by the mass media about the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) based on the publications of online and print publications of the Republic of Bashkortostan. The purpose is to determine their role in forming ideas about the ongoing processes in the region’s healthcare sector. The study conducted by the authors is an attempt to identify the problem of providing high-quality information about the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) and medicine in the media of the Republic of Bashkortostan. The analysis of empirical and metric materials that form the basis of the study shows that over time the problem of disinformation does not disappear; on the contrary, new aspects of it appear, which Republican journalists overcome with difficulty. In this regard, decisive measures are needed on the part of the government, the adoption of new legal norms regarding broadcast information. In the fight against disinformation and avoiding disseminating information from unreliable sources, editorial offices need to cooperate closely with reputable medical organisations and specialists. The study results allow us to conclude that the media of the Republic of Bashkortostan of the Russian Federation have not yet developed a full-fledged algorithm of interaction not only with the audience but also with the authorities in matters of covering this agenda. They face the difficult task to deliver only reliable and verified information to their consumers.

Al-Zaman, Md Sayeed, ‘COVID-19-Related Social Media Fake News in India’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3644107, 30 June 2020)
Abstract: This study analyzes N=125 Indian social media fake news related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It produces five major findings based on five research questions. First, the seven themes of fake news are health, religiopolitical, political, crime, entertainment, religious, and miscellaneous. Health-related fake news (67.2%) dominates the others. Second, the seven types of fake news contents are text, photo, audio and video, text & photo, text & video, and text & photo & video. More fake news takes the forms of text & video (47.2%). Third, online media produces more fake news (94.4%) than mainstream media (5.6%). Interestingly, four social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Youtube, produce most of the social media fake news. Fourth, relatively more fake news has international connections (54.4%) as the COVID-19 pandemic is a global phenomenon. Fifth, most of the COVID-19-related fake news is negative (63.2%). The paper concludes stating some limitations and implications of the findings.

Ardia, David S et al, ‘Addressing the Decline of Local News, Rise of Platforms, and Spread of Mis- and Disinformation Online: A Summary of Current Research and Policy Proposals’ (UNC Legal Studies Research Paper, 22 December 2020)
Abstract: Technological and economic assaults have destroyed the for-profit business model that sustained local journalism in this country for two centuries. While the advertising-based model for local news has been under threat for many years, the COVID-19 pandemic and recession have created what some describe as an ‘extinction level’ threat for local newspapers and other struggling news outlets. More than one-fourth of the country’s newspapers have disappeared, leaving residents in thousands of communities living in vast news deserts.As local news sources decline, a growing proportion of Americans are getting their news and other information from social media. This raises serious concerns, including the spread of misinformation and the use of platform infrastructure to engage in disinformation campaigns. Platforms wield significant advantages over local news sources in the current information environment: the dominant platforms possess proprietary, detailed caches of user data, which the platforms use to force advertisers, users, and news outlets into asymmetrical relationships. In the vacuum left by the disappearance of local news sources, users are increasingly reliant on information sources that are incomplete, and may be misleading or deceptive.This whitepaper examines current research related to the decline of local news, the rise of platforms, and the spread of mis- and disinformation and explores potential regulatory and policy responses to these issues. Some proposals focus on increasing the supply of – and demand for – local news, including increased public education and expanded support for journalists and local news organizations. Other proposals focus on market-based reforms that address the growing power disparities between news producers and platform operators as well as between platforms and their users. Solutions to the difficult problems we face will require a multifaceted, multi-disciplinary approach. No one lever within the market, law, or society will deliver a magic bullet. Instead, experts and policymakers will need to pull at multiple levers using a new vocabulary to talk across the different disciplines – a set of new propositions that recognize the legal, social, journalistic, and economic principles at stake, particularly the harm done to democracy if the status quo continues.In the Appendix we provide a list of recent research studies and resources available for those who wish to engage in more study of these important issues.

Arora, Himanshu, ‘Manifestations of Fake News: Possible Legal and Policy Issues to Be Considered before Formulating Any Law in India’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3636716, 4 June 2020)
Abstract: During this lockdown situation, we have witnessed array of rumors or fake news; from Amul Company shutting down its milk chilling centers to the effective use of ginger, lemon and honey to counter the virus or to dispersing or spraying of the medicine by helicopters. Clearly, the proliferation of inaccurate or misleading news is spiraling upwards, especially during COVID-19 Pandemic situation. Our mobile phones and social media accounts are flooded with fake posts, doctored videos and congenial but unverified theories (especially qua the origin of Corona Virus and its cure), which are quickly shared or forwarded, especially through Whatsapp, Tiktok and Facebook, and out of which some may tickle your fancies at one hand, but some may create tension and unrest amongst people at large. For instance, just couple of days ago, a video on social media went viral where the soldiers of two different armies were shown to be engaged in a provocative incursions and it was being claimed that Chinese soldiers are provoking the Indian army soldiers at the Ladakh Indo-China Border, but the original video was traced back to the year 2014 and pertaining to Arunachal Pradesh Border, though the Indian army has never avowed for the video as well. Such unverified claims or rumors are dangerous and have the ability to instill fear and terror in the minds of people and may cause chaos and disruption in the society and tensions between the countries.Hence, the question is that what is this concept of ‘Fake News’ and why it has assumed immense significance and it is also important to know that in what forms, it exists or reaches to us.

Ash, Elliott et al, ‘The Effect of Fox News on Health Behavior During COVID-19’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3636762, 27 June 2020)
Abstract: In the early weeks of the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Fox News Channel advanced a skeptical narrative that downplayed the risks posed by the virus. We find that this narrative had significant consequences: in localities with higher Fox News viewership — exogenous due to random variation in channel positioning — people were less likely to adopt behaviors geared toward social distancing (e.g., staying at home) and consumed less goods in preparation (e.g., cleaning products, hand sanitizers, masks). Using original survey data, we find that the effect of Fox News came not merely from its long-standing distrustful stance toward science, but also due to program-specific content that minimized the COVID-19 threat.

Auethavornpipat, Ruji, ‘Hate Speech and Incitement in Malaysia’ in Preventing Hate Speech, Incitement, and Discrimination: Lessons on Promoting Tolerance and Respect for Diversity in the Asia Pacific (Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes, 2021) 119–158
Abstract: This chapter examines how COVID-19 not only instigates hate speech and incitement but also increases the vulnerabilities of migrants and refugees in Southeast Asia. It starts with a regional overview of public attitudes towards foreigners and refugees before narrowing down to illustrate how and why the Rohingya populations have become the target of hate speech and incitement in Malaysia. The detailed examination of the Rohingya in Malaysia is motivated by the fact that hateful remarks were expressed by online social media users as if there was a consensus among the local population. It is thus highly significant to understand such a phenomenon. The findings reveal that the global pandemic heightened public anxieties and subsequently led to the proliferation of hate speech and incitement against ‘unwanted’ foreigners perceived as intruders in the country. The situation was also significantly worsened by the wide spread of misinformation about victims of hate speech, which in turn resulted in incitement of violence.

Augustine, Tshuma Lungile, Trust Matsilele and Mbongeni Jonny Msimanga, ‘“Weapons of Oppressors”: COVID-19 Regulatory Framework and Its Impact on Journalism Practices in Southern Africa’ in Carol Azungi Dralega and Angella Napakol (eds), Health Crises and Media Discourses in Sub-Saharan Africa (Springer, 2022) 253–266 [OPEN ACCESS BOOK]
Abstract: The chapter examines the regulatory frameworks that were put in place by governments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to combat the outbreak of COVID-19 and the impact it had on journalism practices in the region. African governments with the help of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines crafted laws and policies which prohibited gatherings. These measures limited the conduct of journalism, i.e. gathering and dissemination of news, during the pandemic. While these laws were implemented to avert the virus, we argue in this chapter that some regimes used the pandemic to muzzle the media. We analyse laws that were gazetted in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and South Africa to combat/ address COVID-19, and evaluate their impact on the practice of journalism in the region through the lens of securitisation theory. The securitisation theory indicates that by declaring something or phenomenon a threat, it ensures that such a phenomenon is moved out of the sphere of normal politics into the realm of emergency politics, where it can be dealt with without the normal (democratic) rules and regulations of policymaking. Methodologically, the chapter uses document analysis which is the systematic evaluation and review of documents. The study found that Zimbabwe and Tanzania enacted laws meant to restrict journalistic practice and information management flow under the cover of the pandemic. The laws enacted were targeted at critical and oppositional media. South Africa was a complete opposite as journalists were capacitated by the state to function properly during the pandemic even when other citizens’ rights were limited during the lockdown period.

Bachmann, Sascha Dov, Doowan Lee and Andrew Dowse, ‘COVID Information Warfare and the Future of Great Power Competition’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3749784, 16 November 2020)
Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a golden age of information warfare. Russia and China—the two most prominent authoritarian regimes contraposing the liberal, rule-based international order the West has strived to build and promote—have prospered most during the current COVID crisis. We look at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) and Kremlin’s key COVID information warfare characteristics and explore how they are reshaping Great Power competition. We conclude with some suggestions regarding resilience and a joint counterstrategy.

Bechtold, Eliza, ‘Has the United States’ Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Exposed the Marketplace of Ideas as a Failed Experiment?’ (2020) 25(3) Communications Law 150–160
Abstract: Considers whether the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the public opinions voiced by certain high-profile individuals, corporations and political action committees, has revealed the marketplace of ideas, on which the principle of freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution is founded, to be a failed experiment.

Bellucci, Lucia, ‘Media Law, Illiberal Democracy and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Case of Hungary’ in Mathieu Deflem and DMD Silva (eds), Media and Law: Between Free Speech and Censorship (Emerald, 2021) 151–167
Purpose: This chapter aims to show how media law strongly contributed to shape in Hungary what has been pictured as a U-turn. This illiberal trend was subsequently strengthened during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Methodology/Approach: It considers that law also constitutes and not only orders political and social relationships. Law, including media law, has been in Hungary one of the main factors of change or rather of political-social construction. This chapter therefore moves from the study of positive law and analyzes Hungarian media laws within the theoretical framework of illiberal democracy, drawing from contributions to political science and socio-legal studies.
Findings: This chapter demonstrated that media laws have outlined in Hungary a centralized regulatory system with broad powers, which lacks political independence, therefore encouraging self-censorship and limiting freedom of expression and pluralism. These laws contributed to shape the illiberal U-turn occurred in the country before the pandemic, but the coronavirus offered the occasion to reinforce government powers, giving the leeway to rule with no or minimum scrutiny for an indefinite period and further limiting dissent. The analysis enabled to argue that neither the media regulation established during the past decade nor the laws adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic are compatible with a modern democracy.
Originality/Value: Based on existing literature, little research has been conducted on the appearance and endurance of non-democratic regimes, and supposedly even less within the context of the coronavirus pandemic which started only a few months ago, compared to the contributions available on democratization processes and democratic consolidation.

Bellucci, L, ‘State of Exception, Media, Vagueness, and COVID-19: Looking at the Indeterminacy of Pandemic Law through the Italian and Hungarian Experiences’ in Gergely Gosztonyi and Elena Lazar (eds), Media Regulation during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Study from Central and Eastern Europe (Ethics Press, 2023) 138-155
Abstract: This chapter moves from Italian legal philosophers’ thoughts on the indeterminacy of Italian law during the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular the considerations that uncertainty is, to some extent, part of the physiology of law and can therefore constitute a constructive element of flexibility in times of pandemic, but it should be recognized that cases of pathological uncertainty exist and that indeterminacy leads to forms of self-restraint that one can also depict using the expression ‘self-censorship’. This chapter argues that an example of a provision adopted during the pandemic that seems to go beyond the physiology of law and induce forms of self-censorship is the Hungarian measure providing that anyone who ‘distorts’ or publishes ‘false’ information on the pandemic can be punished with five years in jail, whose vague expressions produce indeterminacy. The indeterminacy of this measure is reinforced by the indeterminacy of the context in which it was adopted, consisting of both the legal framework within which it is enacted and the pre-pandemic Hungarian media law.

Berman, Micah, ‘Public Health Grand Rounds: Misinformation, Law, and Public Health after COVID-19’ (Centre for Law, Health and Society Events, College of Law, Georgia State University, 28 February 2024) [YouTube video]
Abstract: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the public was deluged with misinformation about the COVID-19 virus and potential responses to it, particularly on social media. Though rampant misinformation on social media is disturbing, it is perhaps more troubling when, as Professors Claudia Haupt and Wendy Parmet have explored, such misinformation is endorsed and shared by medical professionals, government health officials, and elected representatives. Most discussions of misinformation in any of these forms have focused on how misinformation may have impacted individual decisions, such as the decision to get vaccinated or to wear a mask. This presentation will focus instead on how misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic shaped laws that remain in effect and now constrain the government’s ability to respond to a wide range of public health issues. This presentation will also consider the ways in which misinformation has historically shaped law, and whether the instrumentalization of misinformation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic constituted a novel phenomenon.

Billauer, Barbara, ‘Anti-Vax FEAR* Speech: A Public-Health-Driven Policy Initiative When Counter-Speech Won’t Work (*Fake, Flawed, Fraudulent, False, Endangering, and Reckless)’ (2022) 32(1) Health Matrix: The Journal of Law-Medicine 215-309
Abstract: The 2018-19 measles epidemic was the worst the world (and the US) has seen in 30 years, manifesting in increased morbidity, mortality, hospitalizations, and public health expenditures. Public Health officials and legal scholars attribute the rise to the emergence of organized and well-funded anti-vax groups. Nevertheless, these groups continue to disseminate false, endangering, and reckless ‘propaganda’ (what I call FEAR speech) and junk science, with the objective of fostering vaccine resistance. We are on track for similar resistance regarding COVID-19 vaccination, raising the issue of reigning in such misinformation and disinformation. To validate incursions on constitutional liberties such as freedom of speech or religion, the materiality of the harm must be considered. To date, quantitative demonstration of cause (of vaccine resistance) and effect (of (anti-vax rhetoric) data is wanting. This research fills that gap, the first such research to do so via a systematic methodology. Using a novel approach, I also establish that pamphleteering and conferences / symposia have been effective dissemination means for targeting insular or vulnerable communities. After evaluating several proposals to deal with the threat presented by these groups and discussing constitutional predicates, I propose a novel means of redress – a policy-driven response that should overcome constitutional obstacles to muzzling anti-vax rhetoric. This involves governmental speech in the form of mandated educational curricula targeted at the high school level.

Billauer, Barbara Pfeffer, ‘Muzzling Anti-Vaxxer FEAR* Speech: Overcoming Free Speech Obstacles with Compelled Speech’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3780729, 6 February 2021)
Abstract: As the anti-vax industry continues to stoke fear and incite vaccine resistance, some means must be found to detoxify their false messages. Counterspeech, the preferred mode to deal with unfortunate rhetoric, I demonstrate, is both ineffective and counter-effective when it comes to scientific speech addressing health. I therefore investigate other free speech protections available to shield false anti-vax speech, concluding that while complete protection may exist in the context of political speech without proof of fraud, it is more limited in the context of commercial speech. I then investigate the commercial ties of anti-vax mechanisms used in the strikingly effective outreach targeting insular audiences: the conference and pamphlet vehicles. Research indicates that these vehicles incorporate fingerprints of commercial enterprise, thereby making them eligible for regulation under the doctrine of compelled speech. This approach allows for the requirement of imposing warning labels on pamphlets as well as conference advertising and marketing. This novel approach may provide the salutary benefit not obtainable by counterspeech.

Bolsover, Gillian and Janet Tokitsu Tizon, ‘Social Media and Health Misinformation During the US COVID Crisis’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3666955, 4 August 2020)
Abstract: Health misinformation has been found to be prevalent on social media, particularly in new public health crises in which there is limited scientific information. However, social media can also play a role in limiting and refuting health misinformation. Using as a case study US President Donald Trump’s controversial comments about the promise and power of UV light- and disinfectant-based treatments, this data memo examines how these comments were discussed and responded to on Twitter. We find that these comments fell into established politically partisan narratives and dominated discussion of both politics and COVID in the days following. Contestation of the comments was much more prevalent than support. Supporters attacked media coverage in line with existing Trump narratives. Contesters responded with humour and shared mainstream media coverage condemning the comments. These practices would have strengthened the original misinformation through repetition and done little to construct a successful refutation for those who might have believed them. This research adds much-needed knowledge to our understanding of the information environment surrounding COVID and demonstrates that, despite calls for the depoliticization of health information in this public health crisis, this is largely being approached as a political issue along divisive, polarised, partisan lines.

Burri, Mira, ‘Fake News in Times of Pandemic and Beyond: Enquiry into the Rationales for Regulating Information Platforms’ in Klaus Mathis and Avishalom Tor (eds), Law and Economics of the Coronavirus Crisis (Springer, 2022) 31–58
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic threw our societies in dire times with deep effects on all societal sectors and on our lives. The pandemic was accompanied by another phenomenon also associated with grave consequences—that of the ‘infodemic’. Fake news about the cause, prevention, impact and potential cures for the coronavirus spread on social platforms and other media outlets, and continue to do so. The chapter takes this infodemic as a starting point to exploring the broader phenomenon of online misinformation. The legal analysis in this context focuses on the rationales for regulating Internet platforms as critical information intermediaries in a global networked media space. As Internet platforms do not fall under the category of media companies, they are currently not regulated in most countries. Yet, the pressure to regulate them, also in light of other negative phenomena, such as hate speech proliferation, political disinformation and targeting, has grown in recent years. The regulatory approaches differ, however, across jurisdictions and encompass measures that range from mere self-regulatory codes to more binding interventions. Starting with some insights into the existing technological means for mediating speech online, the power of platforms, and more specifically their influence on the conditions of freedom of expression, the chapter discusses in particular the regulatory initiatives with regard to information platforms in the United States and in the European Union, as embedded in different traditions of free speech protection. The chapter offers an appraisal of the divergent US and EU approaches and contemplates the adequate design of regulatory intervention in the area of online speech in times of infodemic and beyond it.

Bursztyn, Leonardo et al, ‘Misinformation During a Pandemic’ (NBER Working Paper No w27417, 1 June 2020)
Abstract: We study the effects of COVID-19 coverage early in the pandemic by the two most widely-viewed cable news shows in the United States – Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight, both on Fox News – on downstream health outcomes. We first document large differences in content between the shows and in cautious behavior among viewers. Through both a selection-on-observables strategy and a novel instrumental variable approach, we find that areas with greater exposure to the show downplaying the threat of COVID-19 experienced a greater number of cases and deaths. We assess magnitudes through a simple epidemiological model highlighting the role of externalities and provide evidence that misinformation is a key underlying mechanism. :

Carson, Andrea, ‘The Fake News Crisis: Lessons for Australia from the Asia-Pacific’ (Melbourne School of Government, Governing During Crises, Policy Brief No 12)
This Policy Brief makes the following key points:
(a) Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the spread of misinformation and disinformation online was a major global problem that can harm social cohesion, public health and safety, and political stability. The pandemic has highlighted how fake news about coronavirus and its treatments, even when spread innocently with no intention of causing harm, can cause real-world harm, and even death.(b) A lack of consensus among policymakers, media practitioners and academics on working definitions of fake news, misinformation and disinformation contribute to the difficulties in developing clear policies and measures to tackle this global problem.
(c) To try to mitigate confusion for readers of this Policy Brief, a simple and broad definition of ‘online misinformation’ is adopted: the spread of inaccurate or misleading content online. ‘Disinformation’, by contrast, is considered as: the spread of inaccurate or misleading content with conscious intent to mislead, deceive or otherwise cause harm. In this way, we consider online disinformation to be a substantial subset of the broad, overarching problem of misinformation. This is a similar position to that of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Fake news is an umbrella term that covers both misinformation and disinformation.
(d) The pandemic has emboldened many non-liberal states and fledgling democracies to crackdown on fake news through legislative means with threats of jail terms and heavy fines for those found in breach of the new laws.
(e) Indonesia and Singapore are among a group of early adopter states to play the role of both arbiter of what is online misinformation and the enforcer of laws against alleged misconduct. Critics argue these states are using their new laws to silence a wide spectrum of critics, with major implications for freedom of speech and expression, media freedom, political pluralism and democratic representation.
(f) So far, the Australian government has taken a voluntary regulatory pathway to tackle fake news. DIGI’s (Digital Industry Group Inc.) new voluntary Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation was launched in February 2021. It commits digital technology signatories to a range of measures to reduce the risk of harmful online misinformation and disinformation.

Caulfield, Timothy, ‘Does Debunking Work? Correcting COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media’ in Colleen M Flood et al (eds), Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 (University of Ottawa Press, 2020) 183
Abstract: A defining characteristic of this pandemic has been the spread of misinformation. The World Health Organization (WHO) famously called the crisis not just a pandemic, but also an ‘infodemic.’ Why and how misinformation spreads and has an impact on behaviours and beliefs is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon. There is an emerging rich academic literature on misinformation, particularly in the context of social media. In this chapter, I focus on two questions: Is debunking an effective strategy? If so, what kind of counter-messaging is most effective? While the data remain complex and, at times, contradictory, there is little doubt that efforts to correct misinformation are worthwhile. In fact, fighting the spread of misinformation should be viewed as an important health and science policy priority.

Coe, Peter, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Social Media during the Coronavirus Pandemic’ (2020) 25(3) Communications Law 119–122
Abstract: Comments on the use of social media in a positive way to bring people closer together and to disseminate vital information during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also observes its harmful use as a platform for spreading fake news, false information, and misleading and unethical reporting.

Cordoş, Alexandru, ‘The Efficiency of Legal Norms in Communication and Public Relations During the Coronavirus Pandemic in Romania’ (2021) 15(1) Fiat Iustitia 195–206
Abstract: The present study is the result of an empirical research of qualitative sociology of communication and public relations in the context of the ‘Coronavirus Pandemic in Romania’. Our hypothesis was that, just as in commercial communication, public relations take precedence over advertising, in the administrative and political context, public relations overwhelm public communication. We analyzed the relationship between the efficiency of transmitting legal norms through public communication. We analyzed the relationship between the efficiency of transmitting legal norms through administrative and political public communication, related to the ability to influence and divert public opinion of public relations conducted on social networks, but also in traditional media. We compared the influence of messages from one sphere or another on public opinion with the intention of highlighting the mechanisms of action of the ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake-news’ and to outline possible rules and legal procedures to limit influence.

Cox, Caitríona L, ‘“Healthcare Heroes”: Problems with Media Focus on Heroism from Healthcare Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2020) 46(8) Journal of Medical Ethics 510–513
Abstract: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the media have repeatedly praised healthcare workers for their ‘heroic’ work. Although this gratitude is undoubtedly appreciated by many, we must be cautious about overuse of the term ‘hero’ in such discussions. The challenges currently faced by healthcare workers are substantially greater than those encountered in their normal work, and it is understandable that the language of heroism has been evoked to praise them for their actions. Yet such language can have potentially negative consequences. Here, I examine what heroism is and why it is being applied to the healthcare workers currently, before outlining some of the problems associated with the heroism narrative currently being employed by the media. Healthcare workers have a clear and limited duty to treat during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can be grounded in a broad social contract and is strongly associated with certain reciprocal duties that society has towards healthcare workers. I argue that the heroism narrative can be damaging, as it stifles meaningful discussion about what the limits of this duty to treat are. It fails to acknowledge the importance of reciprocity, and through its implication that all healthcare workers have to be heroic, it can have negative psychological effects on workers themselves. I conclude that rather than invoking the language of heroism to praise healthcare workers, we should examine, as a society, what duties healthcare workers have to work in this pandemic, and how we can support them in fulfilling these.

‘DCMS House of Commons Committee Calls for New Online Harms Regulator Now’ [2020] (August) Computers and Law 39–40
Abstract: Considers the findings of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee’s report on ‘Misinformation on the COVID-19 Infodemic’, and how the Government’s online harms proposals might work in practice. Highlights its recommendations on the role of the Government’s proposed new online harms regulator.

Dehio, Niklas, Malte Ostendorff and Georg Rehm, ‘Claim Extraction and Law Matching for COVID-19-Related Legislation’ (Proceedings of the 13th Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2022), Marseille, 20-25 June 2022, 2022) 480–490
Abstract: To cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, many jurisdictions have introduced new or altered existing legislation. Even though these new rules are often communicated to the public in news articles, it remains challenging for laypersons to learn about what is currently allowed or forbidden since news articles typically do not reference underlying laws. We investigate an automated approach to extract legal claims from news articles and to match the claims with their corresponding applicable laws. We examine the feasibility of the two tasks concerning claims about COVID-19-related laws from Berlin, Germany. For both tasks, we create and make publicly available the data sets and report the results of initial experiments. We obtain promising results with Transformer-based models that achieve 46.7 F1 for claim extraction and 91.4 F1 for law matching, albeit with some conceptual limitations. Furthermore, we discuss challenges of current machine learning approaches for legal language processing and their ability for complex legal reasoning tasks.

Ding, Chunyan, ‘Fatal Lack of Information Transparency in Public Health Emergency: Lessons from the COVID-19 Outbreak in China’ (2020) 50(2) Hong Kong Law Journal 781
Abstract: This article examines the lack of information transparency on the part of the Chinese government as revealed in the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on the evidence of the lack of information transparency in the initial stage of this public health emergency, the article reviews how the Chinese public health emergency information system, which had been established in response to the 2003 SARS crisis, was implemented. It further analyses the fundamental reasons for the lack of information transparency despite the reporting, disseminating and early warning mechanisms that existed in the country. It finds that powerless centres for disease control and prevention, prioritisation of the political concern of social stability and harmonisation over public health, extremely tight governance of public opinions and inadequacies of the public health emergency information system with respect to new and emerging infectious diseases are the four major factors that combined to result in the lack of information transparency in the COVID-19 outbreak in China. The article identifies big lessons to be learned to promote information transparency in public health emergencies.

Dobryninas, Aleksandras, ‘Pandemic and Infodemic in Lithuania’ in Dina Siegel, Aleksandras Dobryninas and Stefano Becucci (eds), Covid-19, Society and Crime in Europe (Springer International Publishing, 2022) 43–62
Abstract: Lithuania belonged to European countries, which relatively successfully passed the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the second wave of the pandemic was opposite to the first one. By 2020, Lithuania placed itself among the less lucky European countries with a high rate of infected persons and coronavirus deaths. In the presented chapter, the author observes the change of social restrictions, which were introduced as a vital part of governmental anti-pandemic policy and analyses their possible impact on crime trends in the country. Special attention is paid to changes in homicide statistics, which are still exceptional among other countries of the EU. Additionally, the chapter clarifies the role of mass media in informing the society about coronavirus threats and constricting new ‘suitable enemies’, especially during the first pandemic wave.

Dongol, Nikhil and Syeda A Tripty, ‘Access to Information as a Human Right Amid the Pandemic’ (2021) 1(1) University of Asia Pacific (UAP) Law Review 71–82
Abstract: With the outbreak of coronavirus in late December 2019, people around the world were forced to stay indoors. The lockdown had moved all the works to go online or virtual. With this, a virtual world has expanded and people have been easy to reach out on the internet. On the dark side, there are rampant misinformation and disinformation throughout the online world. This paper is an attempt to attract attention towards the ensuing infodemic which has been running havoc in connivance with the pandemic. This infodemic has increased the duty of the state to prevent from creating further havoc in an already wrecked system fighting the health crisis, especially in South Asia. The objective of this article is to explore the attempts made by the government in South Asia to cope up with yet another crisis particularly in the context of the law. It aims to analyse the right to freedom of speech and expression coupled with the fundamental right of the citizen to access information. The article further discovers the relevance of the interdependence of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) more during the pandemic. However, this article does not attempt to provide a blueprint for implementation of the policy to combat the infodemic due to the diversity of situations faced by different countries to varying degrees rather would highlight the best practices of states and would explore the institutional mechanism coping with this situation. This is doctrinal legal research, where primary data was obtained from legislation and case law, whereas secondary data was obtained from various hard copy and soft copy books, journals, articles, reports as well as literature reviews. Both quantitative and qualitative data were employed to both the provisions of access to information in South Asian countries.

Douek, Evelyn, ‘Governing Online Speech: From “Posts-As-Trumps” to Proportionality and Probability’ (2021) 121(3) Columbia Law Review 759–834
Abstract: Online speech governance stands at an inflexion point. Platforms are emerging from the state of emergency invoked during the pandemic and lawmakers are poised to transform the regulatory landscape. The importance of what emerges from this moment can hardly be overstated: how platforms write and enforce the rules for what speech they allow on their services shapes the most important channels for communication in the modern era, and has profound consequences for individuals, societies, and democratic governance. Understanding how online speech governance arrived at this moment illuminates the tasks that the institutions created during this transformation must be designed to do. This history shows that where online speech governance was once dominated by the First Amendment tradition’s categorical and individualistic approach to adjudicating speech issues, that approach became strained and online speech governance now revolves around the principles of proportionality and probability. Proportionality requires governance to no longer focus on the speech interest in an individual post alone, but to also take into account other societal interests and place proportionate limitations on content where necessary. But the unfathomable scale of online speech governance makes the enforcement of rules only ever a matter of probability: content moderation will always involve error, and so the pertinent question is what error rates are reasonable and which kinds of errors should be preferred. Platforms’ actions during the pandemic have thrown into stark relief the centrality of these principles to online speech governance, but also how undertheorized they remain. This article reviews the nature and causes of this shift of online speech governance from a ‘posts-as-trumps’ approach to one of systemic balancing, and what this new era of content moderation requires of platforms and their regulators.

Dyer, Owen, ‘Florida Loses Legal Battle to Keep Covid Data Secret’ [2023] (383) BMJ p2419
Abstract: The state government of Ron DeSantis in Florida, which manipulated covid data to show deaths falling during a surge, has agreed to release old data and to publish new covid data, abandoning a two year legal battle to keep the data secret.

Elyas, Tariq et al, ‘Politicizing COVID-19 Lingua in Western and Arab Newspapers: A Critical Discourse Analysis’ (2023) 36(2) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 869–892
Abstract: COVID-19 has struck the world in an unprecedented way. Countries quickly tried to counter the rapid spread of the virus by imposing strict measures and national lockdowns. At the same time, some governments took advantage of the pandemic to besmirch their opponents. We utilize van Dijk (J Polit Ideol 11(2):115–140 2006) critical discourse analysis model to investigate how newspaper headlines reacted to COVID-19 from through ideological lenses. Results show that while the US implied that China is the origin of the virus, headlines in Arab newspapers showed that Saudi Arabia blamed travel to Iran for the early increases of COVID-19 cases.

Erokhina, Yulia, ‘Stereotyping of the Russian Orthodox Church in Fake News in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Semiotic and Legal Analysis’ (2022) 35(3) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 1187–1213
Abstract: Fake news is created as ordinary news stylistically but it consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes (aimed at misinforming or deceiving people). The text is generally constructed to cause negative emotions and feelings in readers: fear, panic, distrust, and paranoia. It is done to manipulate the opinion and consciousness of a large number of people and eventually leads to changes in the values, ideas and attitudes that already exist in the public awareness. The result is a schism that has already gone beyond the usual spiritual strife. Moreover, its expansion has weakened the defining feature of Russian Orthodoxy which lies in trust and support of the state and authorities. The Russian Orthodox Church has to deal not only with public health crisis but also with profound differences within its ranks over the churchgoers’ behavior in the conditions of a pandemic. The article analyzes legal regulations and mechanisms for countering fake news about the Russian Orthodox Church, and provides examples from the judicial practice. It also determines the mechanisms of the worshippers’ reaction to the fake news involving the Russian Orthodox Church. Using semiotic methodology, the author reveals re-encoding of the symbolic meaning of such signs as ‘Russian Orthodox cross’ and ‘red cross’. The connotative meaning of these signs leads to contradictions in the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faizan, Neelam and Eqbal Hussain, ‘Fake News in India during Covid-19: A Legal Study on the Spread of Fake News via Social Media’ (2022) 3(1) Jus Corpus Law Journal 254–273
Abstract: Since the last decade, social media has become a breeding ground for fake news, with viral messages, photographs, and videos being shared at a speed that has never been seen before. Recently, numerous events have come to light that shows how dangerous the spread of fake news can be for society. Moreover, its spread, either intentionally or unintentionally, is endangering our rights in a number of ways. Furthermore, it poses a significant threat to our human rights, such as the right to health. In the present scenario, as people throughout the world are fighting COVID-19, another battle is raging, and that is the battle against the problem of fake news. Globally, fake news relating to health has become one of the biggest threats during COVID-19. The world struggled with a flood of false information relating to the new pandemic, and India was no exception. Even it was said that the virus of fake news travelled much faster than the coronavirus in India. In this context, the researcher has tried to examine the issues of the spread of fake news in India during COVID-19 and the perceptions of different individuals towards the same.

Fenster, Mark, ‘A “Public” Journey Through COVID-19: Donald Trump, Twitter, and the Secrecy of U.S. Presidents’ Health’ (2021) 8(1) Critical Analysis of Law 25–42
Abstract: Donald Trump ignored numerous governance norms in his one term as U.S. President, especially those that prescribe disclosure of official and personal financial information. His brief period of illness from COVID-19, which he broadcast to the world via his Twitter account, revealed the complexity of Trump’s relationship to the concept and norms of transparency that presume information’s necessity for a functional and accountable state. At the same time that Trump offered little in the way of coherent and authoritative information about his health, he also provided an enormous amount of seemingly ‘inside’ and direct accounts of the progress of his illness—indeed, much more than tradition and law appeared to require. This incident epitomized both Trump’s distinct, populist approach to transparency and transparency’s limitations as a concept of democratic governance.

Fierro, Ana, ‘COVID-19 and The Right to Access to Information’ (2021) 24(36) Juris Poiesis 257–266
Abstract: This paper explores the challenges that transparency agencies have during the pandemic to ensure access to information as part of free speech, collaboration, and participation in a democracy. We identify three mayor challenges: dark transparency, lack of plain language, and misinformation.

‘Freedom of Speech’ (2020) July Public Law 558–560
Abstract: Reviews developments concerning freedom of expression, including: OFCOM’s publication of a note on broadcasting related to the coronavirus pandemic; the complaints received by OFCOM about the broadcast of a coronavirus-related interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke, and about comments made on ITV’s current affairs programme ‘This Morning’; and OFCOM’s publication of its review of public service broadcasting between 2014 and 2018.

Gabore, Samuel Mochona, ‘Western and Chinese Media Representation of Africa in COVID-19 News Coverage’ (2020) 30(5) Asian Journal of Communication 299–316
Abstract: In news production and dissemination, media represent communities, countries, and continents by constructing concepts, images, and identities as viewed by selected information sources. It is often assumed that foreign countries are labelled ‘Others’ by global media and misrepresented. This study aims to explore how differently Western and Chinese media source and frame events in Africa. Comparative content analysis of news coverage of COVID-19 prevention in Africa revealed that Western media used African official, African non-official, and Western non-official channels as information sources whereas Chinese media mainly used African and Chinese official sources. The result demonstrated that Western media covered events in Africa in Conflict, Negativity, Human interest, Impact, Eminence, and Novelty frames in positive, neutral, and negative tones whereas Chinese media covered mainly in Impact, Eminence and Novelty frames mostly in positive tone. Overall, the results suggest that Western media coverage of the events is not predominantly negative; and Chinese media coverage is uncommonly affirmative. The findings also suggest that sourcing shapes frames, tones, and representation of ‘Others’ by news media.

Geldenhuys, Kotie, ‘Disinformation Spreads Faster than the Real Threat: Research’ (2020) 113(6) Servamus Community-based Safety and Security Magazine 34–36
Abstract: During times of crises, pandemics and elections, unreliable and false information quickly surfaces. Such false information creates fear and often puts lives at risk. The ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has not been immune to the problem of rampant disinformation and the dangerous spread of disinformation about COVID-19 has to be tackled alongside the virus itself.

Gollust, Sarah E, Rebekah H Nagler and Erika Franklin Fowler, ‘The Emergence of COVID-19 in the U.S.: A Public Health and Political Communication Crisis’ 45(6) Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 967–981
Abstract: The coronavirus public health crisis is also a political-communication and health-communication crisis. In this commentary, we describe the key communication-related phenomena and evidence of concerning effects manifested in the U.S. during the initial response to the pandemic. We outline the conditions of communication about coronavirus that contribute toward deleterious outcomes, including partisan cueing, conflicting science, downplayed threats, emotional arousal, fragmented media, and Trump’s messaging. We suggest these have contributed toward divergent responses by media sources, partisan leaders, and the public alike, leading to different attitudes and beliefs as well as varying protective actions taken by members of the public to reduce their risk. In turn, these divergent communication phenomena will likely amplify geographic variation in and inequities in COVID-19 disease outcomes. We conclude with some suggestions for future research, particularly surrounding communication about health inequity and strategies for reducing partisan divergence in views of public health issues in the future.

Goodyear, Michael, ‘Fake News in the Time of COVID-19: Inherent Powers over False Public Health Speech’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3740639, 1 December 2020)
Abstract: The world has changed dramatically over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges and has caused a catastrophic loss of over 300,000 U.S. lives. This crisis has been compounded by an infodemic, an effusion of misinformation and fake news about COVID-19. This incorrect information has flooded social media and online platforms, confusing and misleading the American public. Yet U.S. constitutional law largely upholds fake news as protected free speech under the First Amendment. This legal reality has significantly compounded the COVID-19 crisis.But U.S. law is not limited to only constitutional enumerated powers. An underexamined approach to regulating fake news is the broad inherent powers of the federal government. Inherent powers are those innate to being a sovereign nation, and they have long been recognized under U.S. law in key areas, including in public health and censorship during times of military conflict. Inherent powers have followed three lines of justification: long-standing international practice, powers naturally pursuant to constitutionally enumerated powers, and emergency powers. Fake news about public health, and COVID-19, in particular, is a strong match for all three of these models under the applicable balancing tests. In addition, traditional First Amendment justifications are particularly weak in the case of COVID-19 misinformation. This makes inherent government powers over public health an underexamined, but particularly promising avenue for regulating extremely harmful misinformation about COVID-19.

Goodyear, Michael P, ‘Inherent Powers and the Limits of Public Health Fake News’ (2022) 95(2) St. John’s Law Review 319–378
Extract from Introduction: Part I of this Article establishes the contours and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part II discusses the current status of fake news under prevailing First Amendment precedent. Then, Part III turns to the concept of inherent powers, analyzing how inherent powers have been historically understood both through Supreme Court precedent and as emergency powers. Part III continues by specifically addressing inherent powers related to public health and the inherent power of censoring speech during wartime. Part IV constitutes the main analysis of this Article. First, this Article argues that the traditional First Amendment rationales militate towards lower protections for fake news, especially in the context of COVID-19 misinformation. Next, it evaluates whether restrictions on COVID-19 fake news fit within each of the three historical inherent powers categories: (1) longstanding international custom, (2) powers pursuant to constitutionally enumerated powers, and (3) emergency powers. Finding that there are strong countervailing interests in favor of restricting COVID-19 fake news under all three inherent powers categories, this Article then concludes by looking to the future of government regulation of fake news both in public health and in general.

Gosztonyi, Gergely and Elena Lazar (eds), Media Regulation During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Study from Central and Eastern Europe (Ethics International Press, 2023)
Link to book page on publisher website
  • Gergely Gosztonyi, ‘Being Honest with People? The State of Freedom of Expression and Censorship in Central and Eastern Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic’ 1
  • Stefan Bogrea, ‘Fake News Laws in Pandemic Times: A Human Rights Perspective’ 16
  • Kinga Sorbian, ‘Fake News in Pandemic Times: A Human Rights Perspective’ 33
  • Kristóf Gál et al, ‘New Tendencies on Older Grounds: Expected Post-Covid Article 10 Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights’ 54
  • Zsófia Anna Horváth, ‘A Parallel Pandemic: Misinformation, Fake News and Infodemics on On-Demand Platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic’ 79
  • Achimescu Carmen et al, ‘Is it Necessary to Review Social Networks' Responsibility in the Context of the COVID-19 pandemic?’ 94
  • Iulia Golgojan-Pătrulescu, ‘Fake News about COVID-19: To Whom Do We Turn?’ 114
  • Lazar Elena, ‘Disinformation about Covid: Has the Sanction Regime in Romania been Effective?’ 123
  • Lucia Bellucci, ‘State of Exception, Media, Vagueness, and COVID-19: Looking at the Indeterminacy of Pandemic Law through the Italian and Hungarian Experiences’ 138
  • Kristina Cendic, ‘Restrictions of Sources of Information During the State of Emergency in Serbia’ 156
  • Dvorovyi Maksym, ‘Why Battle Coronavirus When There are Other Enemies Around?: How the Ukrainian Legislator Missed The Pandemic and Went To War’ 172
  • Muçollari Oriona et al, ‘Hate Speech during the COVID-19 Pandemic from an Albanian Perspective’ 192
  • Herenda Tahir et al, ‘Regulation of Audiovisual Media in Bosnia and Herzegovina – an Overview: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?’ 217
  • Ferenc Gergely Lendvai, ‘"Of Covid, [say] Nothing but the Truth": New Scaremongering Rules in the Hungarian Penal Code during the Pandemic’ 241
  • Moldovan Carmen, ‘Access to Information and Related Rights during COVID-19 from a Romanian Approach’ 261

Gradoń, Kacper, ‘Crime in the Time of the Plague: Fake News Pandemic and the Challenges to Law-Enforcement and Intelligence Community’ (2020) 4(2) Society Register 133–148
Abstract: The Paper explores the problem of fake news and disinformation campaigns in the turmoil era of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The Author addresses the problem from the perspective of Crime Science, identifying the actual and potential impact of fake news propagation on both the social fabric and the work of the law-enforcement and security services. The Author covers various vectors of disinformation campaigns and offers the overview of challenges associated with the use of deep fakes and the abuse of Artificial Intelligence, Machine-, Deep- and Reinforcement-Learning technologies. The Paper provides the outline of preventive strategies that might be used to mitigate the consequences of fake news proliferation, including the introduction of counter-narratives and the use of AI as countermeasure available to the law-enforcement and public safety agencies. The Author also highlights other threats and forms of crime leveraging the pandemic crisis. As the Paper deals with the current and rapidly evolving phenomenon, it is based on qualitative research and uses the most up-to-date, reliable open-source information, including the Web-based material.

Grey, Alexandra, ‘Communicative Justice and COVID-19: Australia’s Pandemic Response and International Guidance’ (2023) 45(1) Sydney Law Review 1–43
Abstract: This article is driven by concerns over communicative justice and the author’s earlier research finding that only a patchy framework of laws and policies guides decisionmaking for Australian governments’ multilingual public communications. The article investigates the additional guiding role of international law, specifically the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and recent commentary by international organisations, alongside an original, empirical case study of Australian governments’ COVID-19 communications. In analysing the Australian case study in light of the international guidance, the article concludes that although Australian COVID-19 communications were available in a relatively high number of languages, they were characterised by inefficiencies and limited community input or strategic planning, leaving Australia arguably falling short of progressively realising its right-to-health obligations.

Hamilton, Rebecca J, ‘Governing the Global Public Square’ [2021] Harvard International Law Journal (forthcoming)
Abstract: Social media platforms are the public square of our era – a reality that has been entrenched by the widespread closure of physical public spaces in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. And this online space is global in nature, with over 2.5 billion users worldwide. Its governance does not fall solely to governments. With the rise of social media, important decisions about what content does - and does not - stay online are made by private technology companies. Reflecting this reality, cutting-edge scholarship has converged on a triadic approach to understanding how the global public square operates - with states, users, and technology companies marking out three points on a ‘free speech triangle’ that determines what content appears online. While offering valuable insights into the nature of online speech regulation, this scholarship—which has influenced public discussion—has been limited by drawing primarily on a recurring set of case studies arising from the U.S. and the European Union. As a result, the free speech triangle has locked in assumptions that make sense for the U.S. and the EU, but that regrettably lack broad applicability. This Essay focuses our attention on the global public square that actually exists, rather than the narrow U.S. and European-centric description that has commanded public attention. Drawing on interviews with civil society, public sources, and technology company transparency data, it introduces a new set of case studies from the Global South, which elucidate important dynamics that are sidelined in the current content moderation discussion. Drawing on this broader set of materials, I supplement the free speech triangle’s analysis of who is responsible for online content, with the question of what these actors do. In this way, activity within the global public square can be grouped into four categories: content production, content amplification, rule creation, and enforcement. Analyzing the governance of the global public square through this functional approach preserves important insights from the existing literature while also creating space to incorporate the plurality of regulatory arrangements around the world. I close with prescriptive insights that this functional approach offers to policymakers in a period of unprecedented frustration with how the global public square is governed.

Harrison, Ruairí, ‘Tackling Disinformation in Times of Crisis: The European Commission’s Response to the Covid-19 Infodemic and the Feasibility of a Consumer-Centric Solution’ (2021) 17(3) Utrecht Law Review 18–33
Abstract: Since 2016, the European Commission has sought to take a proactive stance in addressing disinformation, with this stance evidently influenced by the divisive nature of disinformation and its ability to dissuade participation and trust in democratic institutions. Yet as the coronavirus pandemic brought fear and uncertainty to Europe and the wider world, how well equipped was the Commission’s approach for the onslaught of health disinformation which accompanied the pandemic? Reflecting on the EU’s soft law approach both before and after this ‘Infodemic,’ this article critically analyses the inherent difficulties in regulating disinformation and looks ahead to the Commission’s proposed approach into the future. Finally, considering these inherent regulatory difficulties and the impact of the Infodemic, this paper reflects upon the feasibility of a ‘consumer-centric’ solution to tackling disinformation in the European Union.

Haupt, Claudia E and Wendy E Parmet, ‘Lethal Lies: Government Speech, Distorted Science, and the First Amendment’ (2022) 2022(5) University of Illinois Law Review 1809–1843
Abstract: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have had to confront an extraordinary speech phenomenon: an onslaught of misinformation and recurring lies from government officials, including the former President and his top health officials, about the pandemic. This phenomenon intersects in potentially novel ways with enduring questions about the regulation of government speech. Ordinarily, the government is free to articulate its own message to the exclusion of others. It can be pro-democracy or anti-tobacco without running afoul of the First Amendment. Whereas the requirement of content and viewpoint neutrality applies when the government polices the public speech of nongovernmental actors, neither the government nor government officials are required to be neutral in their own messaging. Nor would we want them to be neutral regarding scientific and factual issues. Rather, we expect that government health agencies, such as the CDC or FDA and their officials, would express only one side--the side best supported by science. In this sense, we have traditionally treated government speech relating to health, safety, and scientific matters as a particular form of expert speech. The expectation of content neutrality also does not apply to non-governmental experts, such as physicians and other health professionals. They are expected to ground the information they offer in the best science available. But unlike government officials, they are subject to malpractice law when they are offering advice to particular patients and clients. Government speakers have traditionally faced no such consequences for giving bad advice to the public. The torts of public health malpractice or public official informational fraud are not recognized. This raises the critical question: should they be? Or do First Amendment values demand that government speakers have free reign, even when they distort scientific information related to the health of the citizenry? In this Article, we engage with such questions. We begin by offering a typology that disaggregates speakers and types of speech through the lens of the range of misinformation that officials have offered during the COVID-19 pandemic. We distinguish among government speakers who echo experts, government experts who speak outside of their realm of expertise, and government speakers who lack expertise and issue official statements contrary to expertise. We then explore the First Amendment’s relationship to government health misinformation and consider whether private law should play a similar demarcation between protected and unprotected speech for government health officials as it does for privately practicing health professionals. We then argue that given the strong similarities between certain types of official health-related misinformation and professional speech, the legal regime that applies to the latter, more specifically malpractice law, provides a helpful model for thinking about and, more speculatively, potentially policing the former.

Häyry, Matti, ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic: Healthcare Crisis Leadership as Ethics Communication’ (2021) 30(1) Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 42–50
Abstract: Governmental reactions to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as ethics communication. Governments can contain the disease and thereby mitigate the detrimental public health impact; allow the virus to spread to reach herd immunity; test, track, isolate, and treat; and suppress the disease regionally. An observation of Sweden and Finland showed a difference in feasible ways to communicate the chosen policy to the citizenry. Sweden assumed the herd immunity strategy and backed it up with health utilitarian arguments. This was easy to communicate to the Swedish people, who appreciated the voluntary restrictions approach and trusted their decision makers. Finland chose the contain and mitigate strategy and was towards the end of the observation period apparently hesitating between suppression and the test, track, isolate, and treat approach. Both are difficult to communicate to the general public accurately, truthfully, and acceptably. Apart from health utilitarian argumentation, something like the republican political philosophy or selective truth telling are needed. The application of republicanism to the issue, however, is problematic, and hiding the truth seems to go against the basic tenets of liberal democracy.

Honryo, Takakazu and Makoto Yano, ‘Idiosyncratic Information and Vague Communication’ (2021) 115(1) American Political Science Review 165–178
Abstract: This study explores why, at critical moments, governments may withhold vital information from the public. We explain this phenomenon by what we call idiosyncratic events, or events independent of the information receiver’s state-contingent payoff functions. Idiosyncratic events often influence the receiver’s belief on the sender’s performance. If such events are correlated with the events determining the payoff functions, the sender may withhold information so as to improve his image. This result may be applied to the manipulation of information regarding a number of recent real-world phenomena, including the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 and the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

Hu, Qian and Wei Zhong, ‘State-Level Politicization of Crisis Communication on Twitter during COVID-19: Conceptualization, Measurement, and Impacts’ (2023) 83(5) Public Administration Review 1266–1280
Abstract: The political dimension of crisis communication remains understudied in public administration. We defined the politicization of government crisis communication as the employment of politics-oriented communication strategies in crisis messaging. We further examined the state-level politicization occurring during COVID-19 and its influence on public engagement and policy compliance. We applied machine learning algorithms to analyze 43,642 Twitter messages posted by fifty US state governors, assessing the extent to which these governors politicized crisis communication. We compiled data from multiple sources to explore the influence of communication politicization on public engagement and compliance behaviors. While most governors showed major concerns regarding reputation and blame, their level of politicization and selection of communication strategies varied. Increased levels of communication politicization discouraged the public’s online engagement and policy compliance. Excessive levels of political consideration could undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of government crisis communication, and thus an examination of their relationship was essential.

Hutchins, Erin, ‘A Parallel Infodemic: Multifaceted Approaches to Online Public Health Mis- and Disinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2022) 73(5) Hastings Law Journal 1539–1562
Abstract: During the COVID-19 pandemic, communities congregated in online spaces more than ever before. While some people found solidarity online, many others found snippets of false information regarding COVID-19’s origin, transmission, and preventative measures. Inaccurate public health information originated long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it thrived as the uncertainty around daily living dragged on. The pandemic prompted a conversation about who, if anyone, is responsible for deciphering and regulating the spread of false and misleading information. This Note presents two methods in which inaccurate information can be redressed. First, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—which provides sweeping immunity for social media platforms—could be carved out to impose liability if inaccurate public health information is available on public forums. In addition to, or in lieu of, this approach, online platforms could be held liable if they do not develop a sufficient content-moderation system. Second, social media platforms could use Corporate Social Responsibility as a tool to amend their existing policies to remove false information, flag misleading information as potentially untruthful or confusing, and flag truthful information as accurate and verified by third-party fact-checkers. Unflagged articles and posts would alert the user that the information has yet to be rigorously reviewed. No solution should work alone; rather, all can work together to coerce social media platforms to be receptive and answerable to their users and broader society.

Jacobs, Leslie Gielow, ‘Misinformation, Social Media, and Opportunities for Content-Based Regulation Within the Constraints of the United States Constitution’s Free Speech Guarantee’ (2024) 55(2) University of the Pacific Law Review 277–288
Abstract: This article explores the challenges of regulating false speech on social media platforms within the boundaries of the United States Constitution. It discusses landmark cases that have shaped the boundaries of false speech regulation and highlights the difficulty of regulating false speech due to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. The article also discusses Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides legal protection to internet service providers. It explores limited opportunities for regulating false speech through defamation lawsuits, professional discipline, and restrictions on false commercial speech and fraud. The article also discusses the regulations imposed by federal and state governments on product vendors and service providers to prevent consumer confusion or deception. It provides examples of how the government has addressed misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and in election-related matters. While the United States has fewer options for content-based regulation compared to European countries, there are still opportunities to address the spread of misinformation.

Jovanović, Srđan Mladenov, ‘Discursive Governmental and Media Response to Covid-19: The Case of Serbia’ (2020) 4(2) Society Register 95–108
Abstract: Serbia’s government, led by Aleksandar Vučić, has in scholarship been classified as semi-authoritarian, using Marina Ottaway’s classification. Its media have also been described as being in heavy, biased support of the government. Scholarship has further revealed that the Vučić-led, post-2012 government, has thrown the country backwards in time, with corruption and affairs being the primary instance by which the regime can be described. Expectedly, the response of the government and the government-supporting media to the COVID-19 pandemic has been less than professional. The initial response included official government press conferences in which the novel coronavirus was deemed to be ’funny’ and that, in the middle of the pandemic explosion and increased deathrate in Italy, Serbia’s population was advised to go to Italy for ’shopping’. The media furthermore tried to pin the pandemic to Serbia’s opposition alleged attempts to topple the government via ’coronavirus propaganda’. This article proposes to tackle the government’s and their supporting media’s responses to COVID-19 in February/March 2019 from a Discourse Analytical perspective.

Kabir, Tamanna Tabassum and Sakin Tanvir, ‘Misinformation in Media during COVID-19 in Bangladesh: Socio-Legal Analysis of the Infodemic in Comparison with Vietnam & Singapore’ (2022) 22(2) Southeast Asia: A Multidisciplinary Journal 20–38
Abstract: This article examines the misinformation on the COVID-19 pandemic in social media and electronic media, as well as whether the existing legal administration and laws in Bangladesh, Singapore, and Vietnam are adequate to combat the infodemic. People who believe misinformation and fake news about Coronavirus, prevention, and treatment may put their lives in danger. False information about Coronavirus has spread throughout the world, not just in South and Southeast Asian countries, causing widespread concern in the global healthcare community. We employed a qualitative approach as well as the case study analysis method. Case studies were conducted using news reports and news channels. We examined the legal provisions of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh’s Constitution, as well as factual analyses of Singapore and Vietnam. We discovered the impact of misinformation dissemination through social and electronic media, which is prevalent not only among rural Bangladeshis but also in almost all classes in Singapore and Vietnam, and how such influence can be detrimental to the interests of Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Singapore.

Kamil, Ida Shafinaz Mohamed and Mohd Dahlan A Malek, ‘Fake News and Covid-19: Malaysian Legal Perspective’ (2024) 9(SI 20) Environment-Behaviour Proceedings Journal [unpaginated]
Abstract: The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by fake news which is as dangerous as the virus itself. Many countries have promulgated laws to combat fake news including Malaysia. This paper considered the criteria for fake news offences and the regulatory measures and non-regulatory measures put in place to counter fake news in Malaysia. Employing a doctrinal methodology, this article analyses the relevant legislations and case laws for offences and punishments with regards to fake news Based on the findings, the paper proposes an amendment in the relevant laws to combat fake news in Malaysia.

Karanicolas, Michael, ‘Even in a Pandemic, Sunlight Is the Best Disinfectant: COVID-19 and Global Freedom of Expression’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3726892, 8 November 2020)
Abstract: In times of war, the right to speak freely is often the first casualty. As global leaders have come to use the language of war to describe their efforts to stop COVID-19, it leads to natural questions on the extent to which freedom of expression might be compromised in order to protect public health. In particular, governments around the world have enacted new policies targeting misinformation as the pandemic has spread, or increased enforcement of existing rules. While the World Health Organization has warned of an ‘infodemic’ of fake news which ‘spreads faster and more easily than this virus’, human rights mechanisms have expressed alarm at the impacts of the accompanying crackdown on freedom of expression. This paper discusses the global human rights implications of aggressive measures targeting the spread of COVID-19-related misinformation. Part I discusses the international human rights standards with regard to misinformation. Part II explores various regulatory responses to misinformation amongst COVID-19 thus showing the impact on international human rights. Part III explores the applicability of international human rights law, specifically the standards for derogation in key human rights documents, to the current exceptional circumstances of COVID-19. Part VI asses the measures against international human rights standards, finding significant cause for concern, particularly if these enforcement postures become normalized. Part V offers alternative solutions to the human rights challenges posed by health misinformation, particularly restrictions which are more carefully targeted and less open to abuse as well as transparency measures to promote trust and accountability in public institutions. Part VI concludes.

Kempen, Annalise, ‘Fighting Myths as Hard as We Fight the Spread of COVID -19’ (2021) 114(2) Servamus Community-based Safety and Security Magazine 70–71
Abstract: By now we have become used to reading about the conspiracy theories that are accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic. When we first reported about the disinformation being spread about COVID-19 in Servamus: June 2020, we tackled various issues including so-called cures for the virus and the claim that 5G is responsible for the rapid spread of the virus. Ironically, the 5G claim is still going around like wildfire. But conspirators will always find something new to create doubt and since the first vaccines against COVID-19 have already been given to millions around the world, this is one of the latest COVID-19 topics about which fake news is spread.

Kettemann, Matthias C and Marie-Therese Sekwenz, ‘Pandemics and Platforms: Private Governance of (Dis)Information in Crisis Situations’ in Matthias C Ketterman and Konrad Lachmayer (eds), Pandemocracy in Europe. Power, Parliaments and People in Times of COVID-19 (Hart, 2022) 263-282 [OPEN ACCESS BOOK]
Introduction: What role do online platforms play in managing and governing information during the pandemic? Chinese platforms cooperated substantially with the governments’ message (and message control) on the coronavirus, but also US-based platforms like Twitter and Facebook that had employed a hands-off approach to certain types of disinformation in the past invested considerably in the tools necessary to govern online disinformation more actively. Facebook, for instance, deleted Facebook events for anti-lockdown demonstrations while Twitter had to rely heavily on automated filtering (with human content governance employees back at home). This chapter will assess these practices, their impact and permanence in light of the author’s research on the important role of intermediaries as normative actors, including their establishment, through terms of service and content governance practices, of a private order of public communication.

King, Brandon, ‘Covid and the Court: Why the Supreme Court Should Not Diffuse European Speech Restrictions into American Law’ (2024) 11 Brandeis University Law Journal 61–78
Abstract: Speech constitutes an immense power which, at its best, can lead to open dialogue that creates the opportunity to achieve positive political and social change. At its worst, the freedom to speak can precipitate hate speech and violence. Across the world, the standards governing free speech are not necessarily the same. This article aims to analyze the constructs of free speech in both Europe and the United States. To this end, this article concerns two major questions: should the United States adopt legislation to combat hate speech in line with the Digital Services Act which the European Union previously enacted; and should this be enacted via the Supreme Court’s opinion in Murthy v. Missouri, a case analyzing possible infringement of Free Speech by the federal government on social media sites. This article discusses the nature of how and which comparative law principles and jurisprudence should be diffused into judicial opinions written by U.S. judges. As well as why this issue is not one that should be handled by the courts, especially through the diffusion of European authored regulations on speech.

Koltay, András, ‘The Punishment of Scaremongering in the Hungarian Legal System. Freedom of Speech in the Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3735867, 23 November 2020)
Abstract: Scaremongering is restrained by criminal law as a limitation to freedom of speech in Hungarian law. Without relevant case law, free speech commentators had rarely discussed the provision until the government’s actions taken in order to step up against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the following amendment of the Criminal Code in Spring 2020 brought the subject back into the field of public debates. The article analyses the constitutional issues related to the limitation of scaremongering, and takes the two constitutional court decisions in this subject as guideline.

Kort-Butler, Lisa A, ‘Tweeting about Crime in Pandemic Times: US Legacy News Media and Crime Reporting During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ in Mathieu Deflem (ed), Crime and Social Control in Pandemic Times (Emerald, 2023) 123–139
Abstract: This study explored how the pandemic shaped or shifted legacy news reporting about crime, focusing on Twitter posts as visual elements of the crossmedia landscape. This study found that news organizations partnered the pandemic and crime in the American discourse of fear. Tweets acted as crime news snapshots, which magnified a sense of instability and uncertainty. Tweets constructed a collective malaise that could contribute to users’ sense of ontological insecurity.

Kovaleva, NN, SA Anichkin and AS Anisimova, ‘Legal Aspects of Information Threats in the Form of “Fakes” in the Conditions of Spread of COVID-19’ in Research Technologies of Pandemic Coronavirus Impact (RTCOV 2020) (Atlantis Press, 2020) 222–226
Abstract: The article discusses issues related to the spread of fake information during a pandemic. It is noted that the situation with coronavirus infection COVID-19 has led to significant changes in the habitual way of life of citizens - there has been a massive digitalization of most spheres of life, which has brought in both positive and negative aspects. One of the negative trends of what is happening is the widespread spread of false information about coronavirus infection. The research provides data from a survey of citizens in relation to fakes. The analysis of the regulatory legal framework of a number of foreign countries, including the Russian Federation, is carried out. It is noted that in order to combat the spread of fake information, including in the context of coronavirus infection COVID-19, coordinated actions are needed between federal, regional and municipal authorities.

Kreps, Sarah E and Doug Kriner, ‘Medical Misinformation in the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3624510, 10 June 2020)
Abstract: The World Health Organization has labeled the omnipresence of misinformation about COVID-19 an ‘infodemic’ that threatens efforts to battle the public health emergency. However, we know surprisingly little about the level of public uptake of medical misinformation and whether and how it affects public preferences and assessments. We conduct a pair of studies that examine the pervasiveness and persuasiveness of misinformation about the novel coronavirus’ origins, effective treatments, and the efficacy of government response. Across categories, we find relatively low levels of true recall of even the prominent fake claims. However, many Americans struggle to distinguish fact from fiction, with many believing false claims and even more failing to believe factual information. An experiment offers some evidence that corrections may succeed in reducing misperceptions, at least in some contexts. Finally, we find little evidence that exposure to misinformation significantly affected a range of policy beliefs and political judgments.

Krotov, Andrey, ‘Shock Strategy under Pandemic Conditions: Transformation of the Political Regime and Legal System’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 4103739, 8 May 2022)
Abstract: The spread of the coronavirus infection COVID-19 in 2020, as a new global threat to humanity, caused the unprecedented social upheaval changing the world forever. In order to combat COVID-19, the governments of various countries have introduced the anti-coronavirus rules accepted by the population mostly quite favorably because of the application of the appropriate media space tools by the authorities. The series of anti-crisis solutions, declared as temporary and formally adopted solely for the purpose of stopping the spread of infection, were used by the ruling group in their own political interests, and subsequently enshrined in legislation on an ongoing basis (shock strategy), thus allowing in a short time and in the least-cost manner to achieve the desired goal — the retention of power of the ruling elite. The shock strategy turned out to be most in demand in countries with the authoritarian government, where the authorities skillfully used the ‘pandemic window of opportunity’. This article analyzes the special aspects of coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Russian media in 2020, which allowed to form a positive attitude of the population towards changing the ad hoc voting procedure on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation in 2020, which led not only to a significant change in the system of national law, but also finally completed the formation of authoritarian trend in Russia, at the same time ‘zeroing’ the presidential terms of President Vladimir Putin. There have been also investigated the actions of the Russian authorities aimed at the legitimation of the voting procedure on amendments to the Constitution including the court decisions related to the declared subject of the article. It was revealed that a number of anti-coronavirus rules formally adopted by the Russian government in order to minimize the negative consequences of the pandemic were used by the ruling group of politicians in their own interests. The censoring and compilation of information covering the process of combating COVID-19 by the authorities, both through the traditional media and through the use of various websites, made it possible to achieve the goals pursued by the Russian political elite in the shortest possible time. The obtained data have not only a theoretical, but also a practical effect; they make it possible to assess both the legitimacy of changing the voting procedure on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and to form a methodology in order to prevent the situation where the ruling political groups take advantage of the quarantine rules adopted in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Krupenkin, Masha et al, ‘If a Tree Falls in the Forest: COVID-19, Media Choices, and Presidential Agenda Setting’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3697069, 22 September 2020)
Abstract: During a time of crisis Americans turn their attention to the news media for critical information about what to expect, who is affected, and how to behave. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, public safety experts warned that the consequences of a misinformed population would be particularly dire due to the serious nature of the threat and necessity of severe individual collective action to keep the population safe. Thus, those elites who possess the power to set the agenda of the conversation bear a huge responsibility for the general welfare. Among the various agenda-setting mechanisms available to the president is daily press conferences which provide a unique opportunity to leverage public exposure, accelerated by the state of crisis. Yet, mainstream media’s daily viewership is many times larger than the president’s press conference and we explore their narratives surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic through automated text analysis of complete transcripts of national cable, network, and local news. Of particular importance, we characterize the differences in which topics were covered and how they were covered by various cable media sources. Our analysis reveals polarized narratives around blame, racial and economic disparities, and scientific conclusions about COVID-19. The media is influenced by the president’s agenda, even for cable news channels that are consumed by audiences that typically do not support him, but we found strong evidence that the media’s choices mediate, and ultimately dominate, the agenda-setting abilities of the president’s daily press conferences.

Kużelewska, Elżbieta and Mariusz Tomaszuk, ‘Rise of Conspiracy Theories in the Pandemic Times’ (2022) 35(6) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 2373–2389
Abstract: COVID-19 pandemic occurred as an unexpected experience affecting all countries around the globe. In addition to the obvious health, economic and political effects, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered immense changes in the social spheres. People and institutions were forced to adjust to the new circumstances, change habits and move most or all of their activity online. In the completely virtual world, pandemic became a fertile ground for the bloom of the conspiracy theories already existing, but struggling for the global attention. The aim of the paper is to present three main conspiracy theories rapidly gaining popularity during the pandemic (the QAnon, anti-vaccination movements and anti-5G movements) and to analyse how they developed since the pandemic had been announced. In particular, the rising activity of the representatives of the movements will be analysed, as well as its acceleration in connection with pandemic and the resulting influence on social and political life. Finally, the paper will try examine whether the rapid development of conspiracy theories within societies has had any relations to the level of trust towards government-made decisions. The thesis being verified hereto is that pandemic accelerated the development of conspiracy theories due to the diminishing level of trust towards governments operating in the most difficult period in recent history. There are variety of reasons for the belief in conspiracy theories and they depend on the specificity of the theory and specificity of group of people it originates from. In general, it can be noted that all kind of conspiracies are developed by either (1) people who actually believe in them and are sharing them with good intentions (to warn other about the dangers hidden behind certain actions or institutions) or (2) malignant individuals whose aim is to discord or discredit an opponent or critic or, alternatively, distract attention from misconduct or lack of competence.

Lee, Tsung-ling, ‘Pandemic Accord, Digital Health Literacy, and Human Rights in the Era of Infodemic’ (2023) 18(2) Asian Journal of WTO & International Health Law and Policy 397–422
Abstract: The unprecedented spread of false or misleading information through social and digital platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic was a major challenge for governments worldwide. The widespread misinformation caused confusion about the benefits of public health interventions, undermined trust in science and public health authorities, and weakened the uptake and adherence to public health measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies the phenomena as ‘infodemic’— excessive information of varying quality that makes it difficult to access and identify trustworthy sources and information. Concerns over the infodemic have prompted governments to take various regulatory actions, ranging from disseminating accurate information, restricting the spread of disinformation, false information, and misinformation, regulating the service providers, to criminalizing expression in the digital environment. However, some governments have expanded their police power under the guise of public health, arresting and prosecuting citizens and journalists for discussing or criticizing governments’ role in responding to and managing the pandemic.As the world negotiates for a new pandemic treaty, this article focuses on the right to information and digital health literacy as essential components of pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. It assesses the public health communication provision in the draft of the Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Accord (hereinafter ‘Pandemic Accord’) by drawing from the Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Public Health Emergencies, demonstrating the complementarity of a human-rights based approach with the Pandemic Accord in expressing the right to health and the right to freedom of expression and opinion in particular.

Lerouge, Romain, Melisa Diaz Lema and Michela Arnaboldi, ‘The Role Played by Government Communication on the Level of Public Fear in Social Media: An Investigation into the Covid-19 Crisis in Italy’ (2023) 40(2) Government Information Quarterly Article 101798
Abstract: In situations of crisis, governments must acknowledge that communication is a major weapon in their armoury, and can be used to convince the public to accept sometimes stringent measures, while preventing a worsening of the situation by curbing any spread of panic. Theoretically, during a pandemic, fear can be contained at reasonable levels by governments counterbalancing uncertainty with information. However, there is no empirical evidence on how the flow of information during a crisis can influence emotional states among the population. In this process, social media appears to be a valuable tool for governments to observe emotional response in a population. In the light of this and within the context of the Italian government’s social media campaign #iorestoacasa (‘I’m staying at home’) launched during the Covid-19 crisis, the current study utilises text analytics to explore the relationship between government and press communication, and the level of fear expressed by citizens through more than 200 thousand #iorestoacasa tweets. The results highlight how the content of the messages evolved in the early part of the outbreak and during the social media campaign. They suggest that in Italy the discussion regarding the efforts made by the European Council to find common solutions for dealing with the emergency has prompted a positive influence on public mood. Conversely, messages about people’s individual vulnerability and the associated sense of an external locus of control correlated positively with levels of fear. This study opens new ways to support government communication during a crisis by monitoring public emotional response through social media.

Macleod, Hugh, ‘COVID-19 and the Media: A Pandemic of Paradoxes’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3852816, 3 May 2021)
Abstract: Following the COVID-19 pandemic, amid collapsing revenues and a rising torrent of online misinformation and gender-based hate speech, States have a human rights-based obligation to ensure the survival of public interest media, most urgently through subsidies that can be funded by proper taxation of multinational tech companies. That is the leading conclusion of a new report by International Media Support (IMS), which assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operation of the global media sector. Drawing on reports from over 30 IMS partners worldwide, on surveys conducted by international journalism watchdogs through 2020, and supported by in-depth interviews with eight journalists working in public interest media in select IMS partner countries, this report provides comprehensive insight into what it terms ‘a pandemic of paradoxes’. The paper was launched at the opening of the academic conference of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day 2021.

Manley, Stewart, ‘Critical Speech in Southeast Asian Grey Literature During the COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2021) 21(1) Human Rights Law Review 233–251
Abstract: Little academic research has been conducted on critical speech in Southeast Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic.1 This article aims to partially address this gap through an empirical case study of op-eds published on the website of the civil society program Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Research and Education in ASEAN/Southeast Asia (SHAPE-SEA). Intended for ‘those who find it challenging to access more mainstream media’, the op-eds provide a snapshot of how civil society groups, scholars and students who otherwise might be marginalised from conventional academic discourse are exercising their freedom of expression in grey literature during a time of global crisis. The study asks, who authors these commentaries? What are they writing about? Which countries are their focus? How far are they willing to go in criticising government policies?

Mantl, Josef, Julia M Puaschunder and Bernd Plank, ‘Communication in the Digital Century’ in (Conference Paper, Unequal World Conference: On Human Development, United Nations, New York 28-29 September 2020) (2020)
Abstract: As never before in the history of humankind, communication is digital and international today. Global digital communication skills determine access to information, economic potential and social wellbeing. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic having exacerbated digitalization trends demands for growing an inclusive and favorable digital culture for all users. Since COVID-19 imposed workplace shutdowns around the globe, the workforce has shifted online. Digital marketing and networking online nowadays should follow novel codes of conduct to share quality data. Good communication ethos is required for upholding e-ethics in anonymous virtual space that is also intruded by anonymous agents and noised by fake news and alternative facts. While network effects were gained through physical interaction and dense urban areas prior to COVID-19, nowadays we primarily meet in virtual online space of social media platforms. Socially distanced we have become virtually closer than ever before as we connect to re-inspire and thrive together on the web. Digital space is today’s business card that forms a virtual corporate identity. The design of the personal online homepage or digital media account grant social digital illusions in a virtual reality that can live eternally. Individuals must also be encouraged to use a right to delete information in anonymous virtual space to uphold e-ethics. The strict COVID-19 lockdowns, that were at a time enacted in all major economies, brought along online communities suddenly standing up for long-held dreams of equality. orporations are now under pressure of boycott threats and online censorship that has shifting from a historically governmental means to an online global collective soul’s judgment. Being scrutinized in a truly international digital arena drives corporations to integrate the wider stakeholder community. In an anonymous virtual space, freedom of speech should be ennobled by a culture of mutual respect and constructive critique codes of ethics.

Marco-Franco, Julio Emilio et al, ‘COVID-19, Fake News, and Vaccines: Should Regulation Be Implemented?’ (2021) 18(2) International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 744
Abstract: We analysed issues concerning the establishment of compulsory vaccination against COVID-19, as well as the role of misinformation as a disincentive - especially when published by health professionals - and citizen acceptance of measures in this regard. Data from different surveys revealed a high degree of hesitation rather than outright opposition to vaccines. The most frequent complaint related to the COVID-19 vaccination was the fear of side effects. Within the Spanish and European legislative framework, both compulsory vaccination and government regulation of FN (Fake News) appear to be feasible options, counting on sufficient legal support, which could be reinforced by additional amendment. However, following current trends of good governance, policymakers must have public legitimation. Rather than compulsory COVID-19 vaccination, an approach based on education and truthful information, persuading the population of the benefits of a vaccine on a voluntary basis, is recommended. Disagreements between health professionals are positive, but they should be resolved following good practice and the procedures of the code of ethics. Furthermore, citizens do not support the involvement of government authorities in the direct control of news. Collaboration with the media and other organizations should be used instead.

Marshall, Adam and Gunita Singh, ‘Access to Public Records and the Role of the News Media in Providing Information About COVID-19’ (2020) 11(1) Journal of National Security Law & Policy 199–212
Jurisdiction: USA
Abstract: The public’s reliance on journalists and news media to stay informed is critical during a public health crisis. In their article, Adam Marshall and Gunita Singh survey and analyze how public access to government records and meetings has been impacted by the pandemic while also focusing on the key role the new media plays in informing the public about COVID-19. Marshall and Singh examine how access to public records has been limited at the federal, state, and local levels through restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act, actions taken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of State, and local governments which have suspended access to information. The article also focuses on how the news media has navigated its role in disseminating information during the pandemic despite various roadblocks which limits its access.

Marsons, Lee and Sarah Nason, ‘Freedom of Expression’ [2020] (October) Public Law 772–773
Abstract: Notes the OFCOM sanction imposed on Loveworld Limited for a news programme and sermon containing potentially harmful claims relating to the coronavirus pandemic, including unsubstantiated claims linking it to 5G technology, which risked undermining viewers’ trust in official health advice. Details the £100,000 fine imposed by OFCOM on Lord Production Inc Ltd for failure to comply with broadcasting rules in a programme on homosexuality and Islam.

Marti, Neus Vidal, ‘The Force of Law? Transparency of Scientific Advice in Times of Covid-19’ (2022) 4(3) Jus Cogens 237–262
Abstract: Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA) are valuable legal tools to access information held by public authorities but during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic time frames to reply to requests were de jure or de facto suspended in many countries. However, the lack of effective legal tools to achieve transparency was not automatically paired with governmental secrecy. This research paper analyses which are the factors that prompted some governments to move from secrecy to transparency while the essential legal tool to achieve disclosure of information was not available. It focuses on the role of ‘ecologies of transparency’, a concept developed by Seth Kreimer to describe how FOIA needs to be understood as functioning within a collection of factors and actors. Yet, can transparency ecologies still force disclosure of information when FOIA is suspended? Research focuses on a comparative case study about transparency of scientific committees advising governments on Covid-19 in the UK and in Spain. In both countries, members and minutes were initially secret, but the British government published information before being forced by FOIA, while the Spanish executive only released partial information when FOIA was reactivated. The paper argues that information disclosure processes can be understood as supply and demand models. On the demand side, it highlights the role of adversarial press, scientific community, whistle-blowers, the opposition and critics within the governing party as decisive factors within the transparency ecology. On the supply side, it focuses on legitimation needs from the government to explain different outcomes.

Mattos, Alexandre Magalhães de et al, ‘Fake News in Times of COVID-19 and Its Legal Treatment in Brazilian Law’ (2021) 25(Special issue) Escola Anna Nery Article e20200521
Objective: to reflect on the legal treatment given to the Fake News cases related to COVID-19 in the field of Brazilian law.
Method: Reflection study based on the consequences of applying the Brazilian legal framework to the Fake News cases on COVID-19. The sources come from another study with gaps left in the sense of applications by the legal system. For discussion, the framing of false news to the legal system was marked out.
Results: They come from a previous study that identified and grouped as False News found in the Ministry of Health database by themes, a saber: speeches by health authorities, therapeutics, preventive measures, prognosis of the disease and vaccination. Final considerations and conclusion for practice: It was possible to conclude that the practice of sharing messages, images, audios and / or videos performed by several members of social networks, without the concern of verifying whether they are true, is an act that can be configured as a crime.

Mazzi, Davide, ‘The Irish Public Discourse on Covid-19 at the Intersection of Legislation, Fake News and Judicial Argumentation’ (2022) 35(3) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 1233–1252
Abstract: This paper aims to perform a multi-level analysis of the Irish public discourse on Covid-19. Despite widespread agreement that Ireland’s response was rapid and effective, the country’s journey through the pandemic has been no easy ride. In order to contain the virus, the Government’s emergency legislation imposed draconian measures including the detention and isolation of people deemed to be even ‘a potential source of infection’ and a significant extension of An Garda Síochána’s power of arrest. In April 2020, journalists John Waters and Gemma O’Doherty initiated judicial review proceedings before the High Court to challenge such legislation, which they defined as unconstitutional, ‘disproportionate’ and based on ‘fraudulent science’. The proceedings attracted widespread media coverage in what soon became a debate on the legitimacy of emergency legislation and the notion of ‘fake news’ itself. After a brief survey of the legislative background to Ireland’s Covid response, the argumentative strategy is analysed through which the High Court eventually dismissed Mr Waters and Ms O’Doherty’s challenge. Focusing on the process of justification of the judicial decision, the paper provides a descriptive account of the argument structure of the Court’s decision. This sheds light on the pattern of multiple argumentation through which the Court interpreted relevant norms in the Constitution and at once re-established the primacy of ‘facts’ informing political decision-making at a time of national emergency.

Milanovic, Marko and Michael N Schmitt, ‘Cyber Attacks and Cyber (Mis)Information Operations During a Pandemic’ (2020) 11(1) Journal of National Security Law & Policy Special Covid-19 Issue 247-284
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by reprehensible cyber operations directed against medical facilities and capabilities, as well as by a flood of misinformation. Our goal in this article is to map out the various obligations of states under general international law law and under human rights law with regard to malicious cyber and misinformation operations conducted by state and non-state actors during the pandemic. First, we consider cyber operations against health care facilities and capabilities, including public health activities operated by the government, and how such operations, when attributable to a state, can violate the sovereignty of other states, the prohibitions of intervention and the use of force, and the human rights of the affected individuals. Second, we perform a similar analysis with regard to state misinformation operations during the pandemic, especially those that directly or indirectly affect human life and health, whether such misinformation is targeting the state’s own population or those of third states. Finally, we turn to the positive obligations that states have to protect their populations from hostile cyber and misinformation operations, to the limits that human rights law imposes on efforts to combat misinformation, and to protective obligations towards third states and their populations. We argue that international law can play a robust role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most part, the parameters of the relevant legal rules are reasonably clear. But significant areas of uncertainty remain. For instance, at least one state, wrongly in our view, rejects the existence of the general international law rule most likely to be breached by COVID-19-related cyber operations, sovereignty. Another major issue is the extraterritorial application of the human rights obligations to respect and protect the rights to life and health in the cyber context, which we examine in detail.It is difficult to find anything positive about this horrific global pandemic. However, perhaps it can help draw attention to the criticality of moving forward the international cyber law discourse among states much more quickly than has been the case to date. Many states have been cautious about proffering their interpretation of the applicable law, and to some extent rightfully so, but caution has consequences and can leave us normatively ill-prepared for the next crisis. Some states have condemned the COVID-19-related cyber operations, although seldom on the basis of international law as distinct from political norms of responsible state behavior. Hopefully, they will add legal granularity to future statements. But all states, human rights courts, human rights monitoring bodies, the academy, the private sector and NGOs must take up the challenge presented by this tragic pandemic to move the law governing cyberspace in the right direction.

Moriarty, Jane Campbell, ‘Hysteria Redux: Gaslighting in The Age of Covid’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No 4857257, 1 February 2024)
Abstract: This article addresses the relationship among hysteria, gaslighting, and gender during the SARS-CoV-2 (‘Covid’) pandemic in the political and public-health messaging about Covid. Between early 2020 and January 2024, nearly 775 million cases of Covid have been documented worldwide, with a staggering death toll of almost 7 million. In the United States alone, 1.16 million people have died, and millions more continue to suffer the effects of the infection, with increased risk rates of cardiac problems, cognitive disorders, and autoimmune diseases. As a result of the Covid pandemic, at least 65 million people have been diagnosed with post-acute sequela of the virus (PACS), often termed ‘Long Covid.’ Some of those who were infected and recovered later develop cardiovascular, cognitive, and other major disorders related to that infection. The article analyzes the U.S. public health messaging in the age of Covid, explaining how individualism, gender, and gaslighting have shaped the public response to the virus and negatively affected public health. In explaining the poor U.S. public health outcomes during Covid, the article evaluates the role of disinformation about vaccines, the ‘feminization’ of masking, and the ‘vax and relax’ public mantra, which suggested that those who did not relax were perhaps a bit hysterical. Finally, the article considers how gaslighting occurs in the context of dismissing the potential long-term dangers of Covid infections and reinfections. There are numerous reasons the U.S. has fared poorly during Covid. This article explores another reason that deserves investigation: The role of gender and its relationship with extreme individualism in healthcare messaging.

Nasu, Hitoshi, ‘The “Infodemic”: Is International Law Ready to Combat Fake News in the Age of Information Disorder?’ (2021) 39(1) The Australian Year Book of International Law Online 65–77
Abstract: This article considers the readiness of international law to protect States from information operations that are launched as the means of disrupting government response to the spread of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19. It examines both the external- and internal-facing dynamics for international regulation of misinformation, with the focus on the principle of non-intervention as an external regulation of misinformation under general international law and freedom of expression guaranteed under human rights treaties for internal regulation.

Naughton, James, ‘How International Governmental COVID-19 Measures Impacted Freedom of Speech Around the World’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3852028, 24 May 2021)
Abstract: A brief comment on COVID-19’s impact on the freedom of speech in a number of countries.

Neuwirth, Rostam J, ‘The Global Regulation of “Fake News” in the Time of Oxymora: Facts and Fictions about the Covid-19 Pandemic as Coincidences or Predictive Programming?’ (2022) 35(3) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 831–857
Abstract: The beginning of the twenty-first century saw an apparent change in language in public discourses characterised by the rise of so-called ‘essentially oxymoronic concepts’, i.e., mainly oxymora and paradoxes. In earlier times, these rhetorical figures of speech were largely reserved for the domain of literature, the arts or mysticism. Today, however, many new technologies and other innovations are contributing to their rise also in the domains of science and of law. Particularly in law, their inherent contradictory quality of combining apparently antagonistic suppositions challenges the traditional dualistic mode of reasoning and binary logic. As reflected in terms like fake news, alternative facts or conspiracy theories, these concepts are seen as a threat to the rule of law and legal certainty and have been described as harbingers of an age of disinformation or post-truth. The challenge posed by these apparently contradictory concepts requires a closer look at the premises that guide our legal thinking and a more integrated theory of the senses and their role in law, as captured by the terms ‘legal synaesthesia’ and ‘legal semiotics’. It also calls for an inquiry into the mind’s functioning generally and how it processes information in the creative process of decision making, linking thoughts and actions as well as facts and fictions. Based on the qualification of ‘fake news’ as an oxymoron, this article critically examines the deficiencies in a dichotomous distinction between fact and fiction exemplified by information about the pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in an attempt to clarify the principal issues for a global regulatory debate regarding ‘fake news’.

Orentlicher, Diane, ‘Ensuring Access to Accurate Information and Combatting Misinformation’ (2021) 36(5) American University International Law Review 1067–1086
Extract from Introduction: What, then, accounts for disturbingly high levels of vaccine hesitancy? And how is international law relevant? After briefly addressing the first question, I take up the questions whether international law adequately equips us to address this challenge, and whether a new treaty on pandemics could helpfully strengthen the existing framework for doing so. First, it should be noted that, while this paper focuses on public acceptance of vaccines, much of my analysis is relevant to other measures that are critical to preventing and ending pandemics.

Orts, María Ángeles and Chelo Vargas-Sierra, ‘Warning, or Manipulating in Pandemic Times? A Critical and Contrastive Analysis of Official Discourse Through the English and Spanish News’ (2022) 35(3) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 903–935
Abstract: Focusing on media discourse and adopting a Critical Discourse Analysis—linguistic and rhetorical—perspective, this paper explores the role of the media in influencing citizens’ behaviour towards the COVID-19 crisis. The paper evaluates the set of potentially persuasive lexical items and emotional implicatures used by two quality newspapers, i.e. The Guardian (UK edition) and El País (Spain edition), to report on the pandemic during the three waves—the periods between the onset and trough of virus contamination—that occurred until March 2021. A representative, ad-hoc, comparable corpus (COVIDWave_EN and COVIDWave_ES) was compiled in English and Spanish comprising the news on the pandemic that appeared in the aforementioned newspapers during the three established time periods. The corpora were uploaded to Sketch Engine, which was used to first detect and analyse different categories (nouns, verbs, and adjectives) of word frequency, and then assign negative or positive polarity. Lexical keyness was secondly analysed to categorize emotional implicatures of control, metaphors, signals of epistemic asymmetry and positive implicatures in order to discern how they become weapons of negative or positive persuasion. The ultimate end of the study was to critically analyse and contrast the lexicon and rhetoric used by these two newspapers during this time period so as to unveil the stance taken by governments and health institutions—voices of authority—to disseminate words of control and persuasion with the aim of exerting influence on the behaviour of citizens in UK and Spain.

Pamungkas, Bani and Maulana Yusuf, ‘Crowd Legislation in Post-Pandemic Era: Overview, Challenges, and Opportunities for Participatory Democracy’s Future’ (2nd International Conference on Democracy and Social Transformation (ICON-DEMOST 2023), Atlantis Press, 2024) 100–106
Abstract: This study will examine the constraints and prospects for using crowd law to promote post-pandemic participatory democracy. Digital platforms have made it possible to involve many people more effectively and efficiently in decision-making processes, or even influence law-making to make it more representative and meaningful. In an open government era, the crowdsourcing approach expands public participation in governance. Crowdsourcing platforms make it possible for anyone to participate online in gathering information and ideas for wider public solutions. This is an effort to address more complex issues in a variety of fields, including advancing the creation of transformative legislation solutions. Covid-19’s spread has accelerated the digitization of public life. The pandemic has become a game-changer for public policy and government administration. This study examines scientific papers using the research information system from Digital Science. With 98 articles between 2021 and 2023, bibliographic analysis shows that scholarly interest in mass legislation, post-pandemic, and participatory democracy has increased. Human society, legal studies and law, language, communication, and culture, and business, management, and tourism dominate mass legislation, post-pandemic, and participatory democracy study. According to article origin, the US and England contribute the most with 30 articles each. Then China and Germany rank second and third. Europe dominates the continents over Asia and America. Visualizing the co-authorship network indicates a correlation between crowd legislation, post-pandemic, and participatory democracy scholars. Crowdsourcing policies and laws can improve inclusivity, openness, accountability, dialogue, and community empowerment. Through crowdsourcing, the legislative process increases public participation and crowd capital by improving knowledge, access to new ideas, and public commitment. ideally it helps build more participatory policy making and improve democracy and products of law.

Papic, A, KK Radoja and J Duvancic, ‘Aspects of Covid-19 Infodemic and Its Legal Consequences’ (10th International Scientific Symposium on Region, Entrepreneurship, Development (RED), 2021) 917–932
Abstract: Formal education, transportation, socialization and other aspects of our lives have been affected by the 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19) and this has increased fear and anxiety in most people. Furthermore, lack of control, helplessness, concern about the absence of knowledge about COVID-19 and its negative impact on daily life are some of the reasons why people seek information about this disease. People often believe in the released information without adequate verification whether that information is true or false. However, nowadays, we very often encounter fake news while browsing social media. The main goal of fake news is to lead the reader to the wrong information for the purpose of damaging the personality rights of a person or entity or to profit. The infodemic and fake news have much in common, because one of the goals of fake news is to publish a large amount of misleading information and the infodemic is an overload of information. Both serve to confuse the average user who cannot interpret their truthfulness. Infodemic can often turn into infomania, a term used to describe people’s tendency to obsessively check news on social media and the internet. This study has three goals (1) to give a theoretical insight into the phenomenon of infodemic through the qualitative method of content analysis, (2) to explore students’ attitudes towards infodemic concerning COVID-19 through the quantitative method of online survey which will reveal the most employed information sources and channels as well as the most retrieved topics about COVID-19 among students’ population with a special emphasize of ways they check information reliability and (3) to explore, through the qualitative method of comparative analysis, the legal consequences of infodemic worldwide.

Parmet, Wendy E and Jeremy Paul, ‘COVID-19: The First Posttruth Pandemic’ (2020) 110(7) American Journal of Public Health 945–946
Abstract: A successful public health response to outbreaks such as COVID-19 depends on broad dissemination and widespread acceptance of accurate information. Yet, in recent weeks, inaccurate information and deceptive information have been plentiful. Even national leaders have offered misleading and sometimes false accounts of the risks facing the United States and the speed of vaccine development. The barrage of false information has helped to erode trust in public health leaders and hinder efforts to contain the pandemic. Unless the public trusts that public health measures are grounded in the best available science, even if that science is incomplete and changing, individuals cannot be expected to follow public health recommendations, such as to shelter in place. Political leaders have not been alone in generating this climate of doubt. Many celebrities, pundits, and even some local health officials have downplayed the dangers for months. Rumors about the virus’s origins, impending national lockdowns, and imminent cures have also circulated widely. This cacophony helps explain why spring breakers partied on Florida beaches while cities elsewhere shut down.

Parmet, Wendy E and Jeremy Paul, ‘Post-Truth Won’t Set Us Free: Health Law, Patient Autonomy, and the Rise of the Infodemic’ in I Glenn Cohen et al (eds), COVID-19 and the Law: Disruption, Impact and Legacy (Cambridge University Press, 2023) 58–72
Abstract: Since the advent of COVID-19, the widespread dissemination of misleading health information has impeded efforts to control the pandemic. The COVID-19 ‘infodemic,’ as the World Health Organization has termed it, is a symptom of the larger ‘post-truth’ phenomenon, which has its roots in deepening partisan divides, the rise of social media, the politicization of the news, the uncovering of research fraud, and the perceived impotence of government. But our inquiry centers on the role that law, especially health law, has played by unwittingly eroding trust in expertise regarding matters of health. We look particularly at the role of the evolving commercial speech doctrine, which has significantly limited government’s capacity to regulate potentially confusing or harmful commercial speech related to health. We also consider how generally salutary protections for autonomy, including those within the law of informed consent, may have left patients with the (mis)impression that all judgments about medical interventions are of equal weight. Blind reliance on expertise has its own problems, as shameful examples of the disregard for the well-being of vulnerable populations (as in the case of the Tuskegee study) suggest, Nevertheless, the public health consequences of the infodemic, from reduced compliance with mask wearing to distrust of potential vaccines, loom large. We conclude that re-assessing how health law can help rebuild trust in science is crucial if we wish to prepare for the inevitable pandemics ahead.

Pavia, José Francisco and Timothy Reno, ‘Disinformation Campaigns and Fake News in Pandemic Times: What Role for Law Enforcement and Security Forces?’ [2022] (Special Conference Edition 5) European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin 301–306
Abstract: 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic marked a turning point in peoples’ information consumption habits. In an environment of extreme enforced isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people have increasingly been compelled to turn to online sources for information and guidance. Online news consumption rose considerably as quarantines began. Social media, already one of the primary venues of social activity for millions of people who could no longer meet and talk in person, naturally became a primary source for news. In this environment, misinformation and disinformation has flourished enormously. For millions, they face not only the effects of long term social isolation, but also economic anxiety as they face an uncertain future in a fast-changing economy that threatens to leave many behind. All of these factors have combined to create a “perfect storm” which is making more people vulnerable to disinformation campaigns (Courtney, 2021). These “campaigns” are a threat to our democracies and our way of life. They create social unrest, alarmism, disbelief, chaos, undermine public security and ultimately erode the global standing of liberal democracies. What roles can law enforcement agencies, governments and the European Union play in countering disinformation campaigns? Are they sufficiently aware of these menaces? Are they already tackling these challenging issues? In this paper we will endeavour to explore these issues and propose potential policy actions.

Parvin, Gulsan et al, ‘Media Discourse About the Pandemic Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in East Asia: The Case of China and Japan’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3603875, 18 May 2020)
Abstract: Irrespective of the nations and media, from 20 January 2020 to the date, the term ‘coronavirus’ is uttered and or written most frequently. Recent emergence of this coronavirus related disease, which is called COVID-19, first reported from Wuhan city of the capital of Hubei Province of China (mainland) during December 2019, and this virus has caused today’s pandemic. As of 14 April 2020, this pandemic has affected 1,925,811 persons across 232 countries and territories. Not only every sectors of all these affected countries are concerned to the pandemic but also all sorts of medias are imposing their hughest concerns to present news, perceptions and opinions related to the outbreak. Notably, the English version of e-newspapers of affected countries played a pivotal role in informing the world about the spread and infection, preparedness and awareness situation, institutional efforts and such other critical issues. During this pandemic created by COVID-19, how English version of e-newspapers of first two affected countries,China and Japan, which are not English speakimg and have different socio-economic and political settings, have highlighted their news and informed global communities are essential to analyze. It is now well known that COVID-19 has imposed high impacts on every aspect of our lives. Health, society, economy, politics, environment, sports, technology, and media all are now somehow shaped by the outbreak of COVID-19. How experts’ thoughts and perceptions published in newspapers are highlighting, and developing these aspects of our lives is crucial to understand. Therefore, this paper aims to explore the thoughts and highlights presented by the two leading English newspapers in China and Japan from January to March. Within three months, both in China and Japan media shifted their focuses from health and preparedness to economy, politics and social welfare. However, the shift and focus were different in China and Japan. Governance and social welfare were key concerns of China; in contrast, global politics received the highest attention by the experts of Japan`s newspaper. Understanding and analysis of this study can give guidance to other countries’ news media to play effective roles to manage health crisis. It also offer direction to the leading media to shape their role and contribution to society and policy making during crisis and catastrophe.

Piché, Justin and Kevin Walby, ‘Flooding the Zone, Challenging State Secrecy: Newsmaking Criminology in Pandemic Times’ in Mathieu Deflem (ed), Crime and Social Control in Pandemic Times (Emerald, 2023) 107–122
Abstract: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian jurisdictions have varied in terms of their reporting of COVID-19 cases among prisoners and prison staff. Engaging with literatures on the policing of criminological knowledge and prison opacity, this chapter examines how multiple approaches to newsmaking criminology including blog posts, op-ed writing, report publishing, and expert commentary can challenge state secrecy in ways that help generate proactive disclosure of additional information about the impact and management of the coronavirus behind prison walls. The analysis in this study reveals how a newsmaking criminology approach can help researchers access previously unpublished information from Canadian prison authorities that is crucial to understanding prison policy, practice, and outcomes related to COVID-19.

Pijpers, Peter BMJ and PaL Ducheine, ‘Influence Operations in Cyberspace: How They Really Work’ (Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No 2020–61, 24 September 2020)
Abstract: Covid-19 is the latest, but will not be the last pretext for spreading fabricated information. Topics like Covid-19 can and will be used for influencing foreign States in a deliberate way. So, is this new? No, influencing has been on-going for ages. But what is new, is the domain of cyberspace enabling fabricated news to spread fast and effectively. Much is written about influencing people via social media. But how do influence operations via cyberspace work? And what is the added value of cyberspace in that context?

Pollicino, Oreste, Giovanni De Gregorio and Laura Somaini, ‘The European Regulatory Conundrum to Face the Rise and Amplification of False Content Online’ (2020) 19(1) The Global Community Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence 319
Abstract: In the last couple of years, the dissemination of false content online has raised serious concerns worldwide. As a result, states have attempted to tackle disinformation in different ways. Regulating disinformation requires solving the following dilemma: How and to what extent can we regulate (false) speech? It is not by chance that democratic and authoritarian countries have followed different regulatory paths in this field. The social media landscape has contributed to increasing the complexity in the fight against disinformation. The pandemic has then amplified the challenges coming from the spread of false content. This work aims to outline anti-disinformation trends in Europe. By focusing on Europe as one of the most interesting areas of the world to analyse regulatory attempts concerning disinformation, the primary goal of this work is to provide a nuanced approach in this field, going beyond the mere description of supranational and legislative regulation and looking at the European regulatory framework under a multilevel constitutional perspective.

Pullicino, Lourdes, ‘COVID-19: The Impact on News Media’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3640199, 8 June 2020)
Abstract: The paper looks at the formidable challenges that have shaken the news media industry over the past weeks. The COVID-19 outbreak has aggravated to critical proportions the threats that have long plagued news media for the public good. Ironically, as is the case in all times of crises, this comes at a time when trusted, accurate, impartial and timely information is more essential than ever. The pandemic has ravaged newsrooms, intensified the pressure on media freedom, produced an avalanche of disinformation and put journalists’ lives at risk. In this fast-moving, treacherous landscape, could there also be scope for opportunities?

Rabilu, Auwalu and QaribuYahaya Nasidi, ‘COVID-19: Tele-Regulation of Broadcast Coverage of Public Health Emergencies in Nigeria’ (2021) 3(1) Ianna Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 28–40
Abstract: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has presented a severe challenge to broadcasters globally. How broadcast media stations in Nigeria responded through their coverage is deserving of scholarly attention. How regulatory agencies performed their role during the out of the virus is equally worthy of scholarly attention.

Radcliffe, Damian, ‘COVID-19 Has Ravaged American Newsrooms : Here’s Why That Matters’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3693903, 20 July 2020)
Abstract: COVID-19 has ripped through the industry. In the United States alone, over 36,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their pay cut. The trendlines for this, however, pre-date the pandemic. This article examines the causes of the long-term decline seen by local newspapers, the impact of this on communities and democratic engagement, and looks ahead at some potential solutions and policy discussions aimed at resolving this crisis.

Radu, Roxana, ‘Fighting the “Infodemic”: Legal Responses to COVID-19 Disinformation’ (2020) 6(3) Social Media + Society (advance article, published 30 July 2020)
Abstract: Online disinformation has been on the rise in recent years. A digital outbreak of disinformation has spread around the COVID-19 pandemic, often referred to as an ‘infodemic.’ Since January 2020, digital media have been both the culprits of and antidotes to misinformation. The first months of the pandemic have shown that countering disinformation online has become as important as ensuring much needed medical equipment and supplies for health workers. For many governments around the world, priority COVID-19 actions included measures such as (a) providing guidance to social media companies on taking down contentious pandemic content (e.g., India); (b) establishing special units to combat disinformation (e.g., EU, UK); and (c) criminalizing malicious coronavirus falsehood, including in relation to public health measures. This article explores the short and potential long-term effects of newly passed legislation in various countries directly targeting COVID-19 disinformation on the media, whether traditional or digital. The early actions enacted under the state-of-emergency carve new directions in negotiating the delicate balance between freedom of expression and online censorship, in particular by imposing limitations on access to information and inducing self-restraint in reporting. Based on comparative legal analysis, this article provides a timely discussion of intended and unintended consequences of such legal responses to the ‘infodemic,’ reflecting on a basic set of safeguards needed to preserve trust in online information.

Rajaretnam, Thillagavathy and Angus Young, ‘Social Media, Its Use at Work and More: An Australian Perspective’ (2020) 26(6) Computer and Telecommunications Law Review 145–150
Note: See in particular the section entitled ‘The Future of Work, Covid-19 and Social Media’.
Abstract: The internet and social media are powerful instruments for mobilisation of people across the world and there is little doubt that the digital technology and social media have a significant impact on many aspects of social life and beyond. What started as a new tool for person-to-person communication has become something more, including a marketing tool for businesses. Corporations are catching up with the use of social media. They have begun to embrace the social media revolution by harnessing the benefits of social media as a communication, engagement and marketing tool. On the other end of the scale, many organisations are sceptical about the benefits of social media and perceive it as an inefficient use of time. The use of social media is either strongly discouraged at work or banned entirely. Besides, social media is increasingly more important for businesses that could post unknown risks as well as opportunities with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution. Consequently, the use of social media platforms at the workplace deserves more attention.

Ratzan, Scott C et al, ‘COVID-19: An Urgent Call for Coordinated, Trusted Sources to Tell Everyone What They Need to Know and Do’ [2020] National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Perspectives_
_Extract: COVID-19 is a test of the global health polity’s credibility in addressing a legitimate public health threat with an unknown trajectory. This sort of an emergent threat requires government, media, technology platforms, and the private sector to step up. A responsible communication response to the pandemic requires cooperation and coordination among all sectors. The public needs reliable and actionable information to help them understand their risk of exposure as they go about their lives in apartment complexes, airports, schools, supermarkets, or at health clinics. The public needs clarity and transparency about travel bans, quarantines, personal protection efforts, and social distancing (e.g., closing mass transit, closing schools, or cancelling sporting events). Moreover, the public needs the assurance that as more is learned about this emerging infection, the information they get from trusted sources reflects both accurately and clearly what the health care establishment does and does not know about COVID-19. Indeed, there are data voids and the public health community does not have all of the evidence needed to reliably predict the trajectory of this infection. Unfortunately, this uncertainty creates a ripe environment for both fear and misinformation.

Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein, ‘Anti-Vaccine Misinformation and the Law: Challenges and Pitfalls’ (2021) 18(1) Indiana Health Law Review 85–94

Rhee, Kasey, Charles Crabtree and Yusaku Horiuchi, ‘Framed National Images Influence Policy Attitudes Among Targeted Foreign Citizens’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3776777, 27 January 2021)
Abstract: Many countries increasingly try to manipulate their national image abroad. Yet, we know relatively little about their ability to shape foreign public opinion and attract support for desired policy outcomes through those images. Using a survey experiment about a Russian donation to the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, we cast light on an under-investigated, theoretically important aspect of transnational opinion formation---the media’s capacity, via framing, to facilitate or impede a country’s efforts to change their image. We find that successful transnational image management depends on whether the media present a foreign country’s actions as sincerely or insincerely motivated. However, the image changes induced by media frames do not translate to attitudinal changes across all policy issues related to that country. Research on foreign public opinion should not assume that diplomatic maneuvers go unfiltered, nor that they can shift opinions on multiple policy domains.

Robbins, Ira P, ‘Sunshine Laws Behind the Clouds: Limited Transparency in a Time of National Emergency’ (2022) 56(1) U.C. Davis Law Review 1–68
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way citizens lived their lives, businesses operated, and governments functioned. With most people forced to stay home, the pandemic also disrupted how people received their news and other essential information. Public records and public meetings had to adapt to face the growing challenges in a locked-down world. While some governmental bodies were able to keep up with the threat that COVID-19 posed against transparency, others either failed to acclimate to the new normal or actively took advantage of the circumstances to limit how much the public knew not only about the crisis, but about other public matters as well. During the pandemic, many state officials radically transformed public records laws and public meetings laws through executive action. Executive orders gave governors flexibility when tackling the widespread emergency, but this unconstrained power also reduced government transparency. As a result, people’s valuable insights and opinions were silenced during a time they were most needed. States had mixed reactions to COVID-19. Some welcomed the change to remote public meetings and used technology to keep the public engaged, while others took a passive approach that cut the public off from meetings. Regarding public records, several governments restricted or eliminated in-person access and made electronic copies of records a costly and impractical option. The experience since early 2020 makes clear that states should ensure that government transparency is a top priority — even during a state of emergency in which problems are indefinite and insurmountable. This goal can be achieved by enacting laws and establishing policies that balance foreseeably limited resources with the heightened demand for openness and accountability created by a public health crisis. This Article proposes a model statute that, when implemented and followed by state and local governments, would increase transparency and reduce the likelihood that officials will use another emergency event as an excuse to conceal their actions.

Romano, Alessandro et al, ‘The Scale of COVID-19 Graphs Affects Understanding, Attitudes, and Policy Preferences’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3588511, 29 April 2020)
Abstract: Mass media routinely present data on COVID-19 diffusion with graphs that use either a logarithmic scale or a linear scale. We show that the choice of the scale adopted on these graphs has important consequences on how people understand and react to the information conveyed. In particular, we find that when we show the number of COVID-19 related deaths on a logarithmic scale, people have a less accurate understanding of how the pandemic has developed, make less accurate predictions on its evolution, and have different policy preferences than when they are exposed to a linear scale. Consequently, merely changing the scale the data is presented on can alter public policy preferences and the level of worry about the pandemic, despite the fact that people are routinely exposed to COVID-19 related information. Providing the public with information in ways they understand better can help improving the response to COVID-19, thus, mass media and policymakers communicating to the general public should always describe the evolution of the pandemic using a graph on a linear scale, at least as a default option. Our results suggest that framing matters when communicating to the public.

Rosenhouse, Judith, ‘Legilinguistic Features of a Semantic Field: COVID-19 in Written News/Media in Hebrew and Arabic’ (2022) 35(3) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 859–882
Abstract: This paper examines and compares some legilinguistic features in news/media reports in Hebrew, and in Arabic in Israel and Egypt during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the beginning of 2021. The goal was to find frequent and innovated expressions in the communication media during the COVID-19 period. The research question was, since there are linguistic differences between these language-varieties: would differences be found also on the legilinguistic level? Hebrew and Arabic were studied because of their different status. In Israel, Hebrew is the dominant official language, while Arabic is a minority language. In Egypt, Arabic is the official and dominant language. The material was collected from two news/media channels in each of Modern Hebrew and Arabic in Israel, and two from Egypt. Selected news texts were analyzed and examples of their lexical and syntactic elements are presented. The texts revealed similar methods for controlling the pandemic, and some linguistic (lexical and syntactic) differences. The comparison with legilinguistic literature suggests that the findings of these Hebrew and Arabic texts’ features during the pandemic differ from features discussed in other studies.

Roudik, Peter et al, ‘Freedom of Expression during COVID-19’ (Law Library of Congress Legal Report, September 2020)
Abstract: This report, prepared by the research staff of the Law Library of Congress, surveys legal acts regulating mass media and their ability to distribute information freely during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report focuses on recently introduced amendments to national legislation aimed at establishing different control measures over the media outlets, internet resources, and journalists in 20 selected countries around the world where adoption of such laws has been identified, namely: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, El Salvador, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Moldova, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Rubinstein, Ira and Tomer Kenneth, ‘Taming Online Public Health Misinformation’ (2022) 60(2) Harvard Journal on Legislation 220–283
Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic was shaped by a corollary infodemic: an abundance of public health misinformation (PHM), primarily online. Studies attest to the pervasive effects of online PHM, creating health hazards for individuals and hindering society’s attempts to confront this and other diseases. Troublingly, online PHM is a difficult problem to solve. It involves regulation of speech online, content moderation, public health law, First Amendment issues, and intricate questions in epistemology and misinformation studies, amongst others. This Article features a comprehensive discussion of the problems associated with online PHM, points to shortcoming in existing responses, and advances two primary solutions. The Article contributes to existing scholarship by developing a rich and compelling plan for confronting online PHM, thereby casting new light on online speech regulation. The Article begins by developing the concept of PHM and discussing the major harms it poses, using Covid-19 as a main example. Next, it surveys how major platforms confronted online PHM during the Covid-19 pandemic and explains the shortcomings of relying on platforms to set and enforce relevant policies. The Article then considers the existing regulatory measures that governments use to confront online PHM and finds them lacking. Positively, the Article promotes two promising paths for confronting online PHM. One is soft-regulation measures—specifically voluntary self-regulation and voluntary enforcement—which were successfully implemented around the world to confront online speech harms but so far mostly overlooked in the U.S. Second, it explores a new approach to regulating online speech: regulating algorithmic recommendation (and amplification). Drawing on a technical primer, recent bills, and caselaw, the Article argues (contrary to popular views) that regulation of algorithmic recommendation can survive First Amendment scrutiny.

Rychert, Marta, Kate Diesfeld and Ian Freckelton, ‘Professional Discipline for Vaccine Misinformation Posts on Social Media: Issues and Controversies for the Legal Profession’ (2022) 29(3) Journal of Law and Medicine 895–903
Abstract: Misinformation has challenged the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination around the world. In 2021, professional bodies for several regulated occupations (including doctors and lawyers) initiated investigations into the conduct of members who engaged in vaccine misinformation, including on social media. This commentary discusses key controversies surrounding this novel disciplinary issue, with the focus on the legal profession in New Zealand and Australia. We consider the difficulties of defining ‘vaccine misinformation’, differentiating between public and private social media use, giving proper scope to rights of free speech, and challenges in identifying financial conflicts of interest and unethical client solicitation practices (eg, profiting from spreading vaccine misinformation). The chilling effect upon freedom of expression when lawyers are disciplined for their social media posts that are deemed unscientific is discussed.

Sander, Barrie and Nicholas Tsagourias, ‘The COVID-19 Infodemic and Online Platforms as Intermediary Fiduciaries under International Law’ (2020) 11(2) Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies 331–347
Abstract: Reflecting on the covid-19 infodemic, this paper identifies different dimensions of information disorder associated with the pandemic, examines how online platform governance has been evolving in response, and reflects on what the crisis reveals about the relationship between online platforms, international law, and the prospect of regulation. The paper argues that online platforms are intermediary fiduciaries of the international public good, and for this reason regulation should be informed by relevant standards that apply to fiduciary relationships.

Santis, Valeria de, ‘Vaccine Hesitancy: The Fight against Misinformation in the Digital Society’ (2022) 6(1) Bratislava Law Review 31–50
Abstract: The contestations arising from the introduction in various European countries of mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 for certain categories of workers are expressions of a profound malaise, not new and common to Western societies. Misinformation about vaccines is not a new phenomenon, but has been heightened due to the rise of social media, clearly evident during the Covid-19 emergency. These conflicts have a significant social impact and can hinder the struggle against the spread of the virus. This work analyses the origins and legal implications of this growing social mistrust in science, which jeopardises the stability of the constitutional order, founded on the principles of trust and solidarity.

Santos Rutschman, Ana, ‘Mapping Misinformation in the Coronavirus Outbreak’ (Saint Louis University Legal Studies Research Paper No 2020–14, 10 March 2020)
Abstract: The coronavirus outbreak has sent ripples of fear and confusion across the world. These sentiments—and our collective responses to the outbreak—are made worse by rampant misinformation surrounding the new strain of the virus, COVID-2019. In this post, I survey some of the most pervasive areas of tentacular coronavirus-related misinformation that has proliferated online—as well as the responses of social media companies like YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok that may ultimately prove inadequate given the magnitude of the problem.

Santos Rutschman, Ana, ‘Vaccine Hesitancy Across Time: Legal and Policy Interventions from the Dawn of the Anti-Vaccination Movement to the Era of Social Media’ (2022) 23(3) North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology 840-881
Abstract: This symposium article explores the intertwined topics of hesitancy and trust towards vaccines. It traces the evolution of anti-vaccine sentiments, their consolidation into organized movements, and their recent evolution as vaccine misinformation and disinformation circulates with unprecedented ease through digital channels. The Article then examines selected legal and policy interventions that have been used to counter vaccine hesitancy—sometimes through top-down or mandatory frameworks, other times through voluntary ones. In particular, the Article examines vaccination mandates, as well as rules imposing or promoting vaccination; mechanisms designed to increase the flow of information about vaccines; and nudges to vaccination, such as lotteries and other prize-like mechanisms.

Schwartz, Germano and Renata Almeida da Costa, ‘Functional Differentiation of Law in Pandemic Times: When Health Becomes Law’ [2024] Oñati Socio-Legal Series (advance article, published online 18 January 2024)
Abstract: Between 2020 and 2023, a period of time assailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, society – as a worldwide social system –experienced a novel kind of communication. The tendency for this communication to exponentially expand is due to the global numbers of people dead, dying or infected. Pandemic communication has arisen in the present to perpetuate itself in all ambiences for every social system around the globe. The health system, in turn, basing itself on the health/disease code, has reacted according to its own logic in the coordination of the actions of doctors. However, the true/false nature of communication arising from questions related to COVID-19 has taken a long time to be tested by the science system. Vaccines and possible treatments for the disease have created issues for political, economic, moral, religious and media matters. The continually expanding trend in pandemic communication has proven that it can hinder the functional differentiation of social systems. Legal communication has not been able to avoid all of the controversy. In the specific case of Law, the problem entails both the judicialization of health and the reverse (where Health becomes Law). Based on the Social Systems Theory Applied to Law, the paper argues that the maintenance of the functional differentiation of the Law system becomes necessary so as for Health not to become Law (and vice versa).

Shankar, Aayush, ‘Mushrooming Like Coronavirus? Tackling the Menace of Fake News by Way of an Epistemic, Legal and Regulatory Discourse’ (2021) (unpublished-available on PhilArchive)
Abstract: Fake news is a topic that we all know well, and that continues to play a prominent role in the social harms besieging the globe today. From the recent storming of the Capitol Hill in the United States to the siege of Red fort over Farm-laws in India, online disinformation via social media platforms was the main driving force catapulting the protestors far and wide. In the backdrop of such social harms, this Research Article examines the epistemic, legal and regulatory discourse surrounding the disinformation bubble in India and asks for the deployment of ‘Lessig’s Decentred Regulatory Model’ — the potential Framework solution to regulate social media platforms in order to curb the menace of ‘fake news’.

Sherwin, Brie, ‘Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory: Law, Politics, and Science Denialism in the Era of COVID-19’ (2021) 8(3) Texas A&M Law Review 537–581
Abstract: With COVID-19, we are facing the most serious public health threat of our lifetime. Now, more than ever, we need experts and sound scientific advice to guide critical decision-making during the pandemic. With conspiracy theories and other similar rhetorical weapons being used to discredit our scientific experts, we face a myriad of misinformation, mistruths, and all-out attacks on our experts, breeding distrust between the public and the policymakers leading the fight against the pandemic. As President Trump took office, scientists were routinely denigrated and isolated. Furthermore, science denialism has permeated its way up to the highest levels of government, resulting in disastrous public policy decisions that have been detrimental to environmental and public health. Funding was cut for much-needed research on zoonotic-borne diseases, the U.S. government pulled its support from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, and well-respected scientists were removed from various advisory roles in agencies. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these decisions went unnoticed by the general public. But, in courtrooms over the past thirty years, judges have recognized the danger of fake experts and acted as gatekeepers to ensure that experts are credible and that science is reliable. The use of Daubert in the courtroom has provided judges with a tool for allowing expert testimony that has met certain indicia of reliability, so jurors can focus on making factual determinations instead of judging whether the sources of the expertise should be trusted. Without a similar gatekeeping function in society, citizens must make those determinations on their own. Scientists and advocates of science should employ their own rhetorical methods to restore the credibility and importance of science in protecting our environment and now our health. Change can only truly come from the ground up. Citizens must actually believe that the climate is changing; they must believe that the health advice they are receiving from public health experts is accurate and trustworthy enough to follow. It is time to put science first—we can only do that if we stop science denialism in its tracks and restore resources and trust in our scientific community.

Sim, Joe and Steve Tombs, ‘Deaths and COVID-19: Talk, Silence and Alternative Realities’ (2023) 45(3) Law & Policy 373–391
Abstract: This article critically considers the UK Government’s insidious attempts to control the narrative around COVID-19 deaths through using the interrelated strategies of ‘talk and “silence” in order to socially construct a definitive “truth”’ around the virus. The article traces how these strategies worked in practice and the shift which took place from numerous press briefings and Parliamentary debates to an ominous silence around the number of deaths, in particular. At the same time, as the article illustrates, the government’s truth has not prevailed. Their twin strategy has been contested and resisted by grassroots organizations and radical lawyers who have demanded that Ministers should take responsibility for the tens of thousands of preventable deaths which have occurred. Rather than government talk and silence prevailing, it is the voices of the haunted relatives of the dead, demanding accountability, which are creating an alternative narrative.

Simoni, Alessandro, ‘Limiting Freedom During the Covid-19 Emergency in Italy: Short Notes on the New “Populist Rule of Law”’ (2020) 20(3) Global Jurist (advance article, published 9 June 2020)
Abstract: The implications of the severe lockdown regime introduced in Italy in the context of the Covid-19 emergency can be correctly understood only through a broader look at how the text of the provisions adopted by the government is transformed by media reporting and law enforcement practice. From such a perspective, it appears clearly that we are witnessing nothing more than the most recent segment of a populist approach to the use of legal tools, the history of which starts well before the pandemic.

Simpson, Jeffrey, ‘The Media Paradox and the COVID-19 Pandemic’ in Colleen M Flood et al (eds), Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19 (University of Ottawa Press, 2020) 201
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic struck the media financially, depressing advertising revenues and imperiling already shaky balance sheets. At the very moment when demand for news rose, as it usually does in crises, the media had fewer financial and personnel resources to meet that demand. Similarly, the media generally has few reporters and editors educated and experienced in science, as opposed to politics, economics, and culture. Nonetheless, the media mobilized the resources it had and did a creditable job covering the facts of the crisis as provided by public health officials and political leaders, who took their cue from those officials. Perhaps belatedly, the media did focus on problems revealed by the crisis, notably in the long-term care and nursing home sectors.

Sitepu, Yosua Prima Arihta et al, ‘Legal Problems Regarding the Crime of Fake News (Hoax) during the Covid-19 Pandemic’ (2024) 3(1) Formosa Journal of Applied Sciences 53–68
Abstract: The problem of spreading fake news/hoaxes. This happens almost all over the world, including Indonesia. One example of hoaxes in Indonesia is the spread of false information in North Sumatra province, especially through social media. Thesis writing technique This research approach is a normative legal system. The results of the study show that Developing a Criminal Law Policy to Combat False Information Crimes Law Number 19 of 2016 concerning Amendments to Law Number 11 of 2008 concerning the Criminal Code, Law no. 1 of 1946 concerning Criminal Law Regulations, and Law Number 1 of 2023 concerning Electronic Transaction Information (ITE). Provisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are in the updated Criminal Code.

Situmeang, Ampuan, Rina Shahriyani Shahrullah and Adolfh Brelly, ‘Socio-Legal Approaches To Combat Fake News (Hoax) On Social Media Pertaining Covid-19 In Batam City (A Case Study Of The Virginia Ship)’ (2023) 6(1) UNES Law Review 2494–2502
Abstract: In 2020, a hoax was disseminated through social media in Batam City, claiming that the captain of the Virginia Ship had contracted Covid-19. This hoax immediately caused significant concern among the residents of Batam City, as the ship was anchored in their city. This study aims to identify the strategies employed by the Regional Police of Riau Islands Province to combat hoaxes, specifically focusing on the case of the Virginia Ship. To achieve this objective, socio-legal research was conducted, which involved in-depth interviews with relevant stakeholders from the Regional Police of Riau Islands Province. Additionally, secondary data collected through library research was utilized. All data was qualitatively analyzed. The findings of the study indicate that the enforcement of laws against hoaxes on social media pertaining to COVID-19 news in Batam City has been effective. This success can be attributed to the establishment of a Cyber Crime Investigation Satellite Office situated at the Kepulauan Riau Regional Police headquarters.

Smith, Robert and Mark Perry, ‘Fake News and the Pandemic in Southeast Asia’ (2022) 22(2) Australian Journal of Asian Law 131–154
Abstract: The rapid growth of internet accessibility and increased number of social media users in Southeast Asia have provided a readily available technology to spread fake news and hate speech. This article discusses the rise of fake news in Southeast Asia in recent times, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, and examines different legislative responses within the region. Fake news takes several forms. Disinformation campaigns by non-state actors are prevalent in Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, but disinformation campaigns by state actors are most prevalent in Myanmar. All Southeast Asian jurisdictions have legislation to prosecute offenders. Singapore enacted fake news-specific legislation, while the other jurisdictions rely on existing laws such as telecommunications, defamation or cybercrime legislation. A common feature of the legislation is that the definitions of fake news or spreading false information are broad and potentially impact freedom of speech, particularly now some Southeast Asian governments have passed laws that prohibit criticism of the government’s response to the pandemic.

Smith, Robert and Mark Perry, ‘Fake News and the Convention on Cybercrime’ (2021) 7(3) Athens Journal of Law 335-357
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent term of the United States President, Donald Trump, brought the term "fake news" to the attention of the broader community. Some jurisdictions have developed anti-fake news legislation, whilst others have used existing cybercrime legislation. A significant deficiency is the lack of a clear definition of fake news. Just because a person calls something "fake news" does not mean that it is indeed false. Especially during pandemics, the primary aim should be to have misinformation and disinformation removed quickly from the web rather than prosecute offenders. The most widely accepted international anti-cybercrime treaty is the Convention on Cybercrime developed by the Council of Europe, which is silent on fake news, the propagation of which may be a cybercrime. There is an Additional Protocol that deals with hate speech, which the authors consider to be a subset of fake news. Using examples from Southeast Asia, the paper develops a comprehensive definition of what constitutes fake news. It ensures that it covers the various flavours of fake news that have been adopted in various jurisdictions. Hate speech can be considered a subset of fake news and is defined as the publication or distribution of fake news with the intention to incite hatred or violence against ethnic, religious, political, and other groups in society. The paper proposes some offences, including those that should be applied to platform service providers. The recommendations could be easily adapted for inclusion in the Convention on Cybercrime or other regional conventions. Such an approach is desirable as cybercrime, including propagating fake news, is not a respecter of national borders, and has widespread deleterious effects.

Solomon, Eva, ‘Cybercrimes Law and Citizen Journalism Clampdown During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Tanzania’ in Carol Azungi Dralega and Angella Napakol (eds), Health Crises and Media Discourses in Sub-Saharan Africa (Springer, 2022) 219–236 [OPEN ACCESS BOOK]
Abstract: This chapter explores citizens’ use of social media during the Covid-19 pandemic in Tanzania against the backdrop of the restrictive Cybercrimes Act 2015. Guided by Uses and Gratifications Theory and through Grounded Theory as a method of inquiry for data collection and data analysis, the study found that, of the 60 citizens interviewed, 75 per cent supported the Cybercrimes Act 2015 as a relevant law but acknowledged that the same Act limits the construction and dissemination of their Covid-19 messages. Only 18.4 per cent of respondents trusted information posted by ordinary citizens while 81.6 per cent trusted information from verifiable sources. Data analysis further reveals a weak citizen journalism practice occasioned mainly by six factors: limited freedom of expression, poor knowledge of Cybercrimes Law, citizen journalism values underutilisation, poor social media literacy skills, and limited message construction and dissemination. Nonetheless, respondents revealed that social media remained the most popular platform on which citizens discuss Covid-19 preventive measures amidst reduced social interactions. Equipping citizens with social media literacy skills was found to be important to reduce misinformation and disinformation. The chapter calls for a review of Section 20 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 to enable citizens, especially during pandemics, to seek and impart information more effectively, devoid of fear of repercussions.

Sommer, Udi and Or Rappel-Kroyzer, ‘Reconceptualizing the Watchdog: Comparing Media Coverage of COVID-19 Response in Democracy’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3698310, 23 September 2020)
Abstract: What is the role of the watchdog of democracy in the Information Age? We augment a theory that focuses on accountability as the key element of watchdog journalism and propose an innovative framework concentrating on structure, content and timing of media coverage. Methodologically, we introduce artificial intelligence analyses and data mining to a comparative field largely dominated by econometrics and case studies. We investigate the variance between media coverage in Anglo-American democracies during the first months of the COVID-19 crisis, by comparing the USA, Canada and New Zealand. All 27,089 articles published in the New Zealand Herald, The Globe and Mail and the New York Times from February-May 2020 were harvested. AI analyses suggest meaningful differences in structure (networks of COVID-19 articles), content (politicized coverage) and timing. Compared with their US counterpart, the watchdogs of democracy in Canada and NZ barked louder, clearer and 2 weeks earlier.

Steinert-Threlkeld, Zachary et al, ‘Crisis Is a Gateway to Censored Information: The Case of Coronavirus in China’ (21st Century China Center Research Paper (forthcoming) No ID 3756577, 2021)
Abstract: Crisis and anxiety motivate people to track news closely. We examine the consequences of thisincreased motivation in authoritarian regimes that normally exert significant control over access tomedia. Using the case of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, we show that crisis spurs censorship circumvention to access international news and political content on websites blocked in China. Once individuals have circumvented censorship, they not only receive more information about the crisis itself, but the crisis becomes a gateway to unrelated information that the regime has long censored. Through this mechanism, crisis both increases attention to information relevant to individuals’ current circumstances and incidentally increases access to information that the regime considers sensitive.

Stojanovska-Stefanova, Aneta and Hristina Runcheva Tasev, ‘The Mass Media Freedom in a State of Emergency: Infodemic vs. COVID-19 Pandemic’ (2020) 15(1) SEEU Review 43–59
Abstract: Information, as well as freedom of expression and freedom of the media are essential for democratic society and fundamental characteristic of modern states. The year 2020 will be remembered as a year of pandemic caused from Covid-19 (coronavirus) and a year of response to unexpected challenge that the spread of the virus caused. In the times of pandemic and any type of crisis, the media always plays a key role in informing the public all over the Globe. This paper aims to make theoretical descriptive research and analysis of the influence of coronavirus on news consumption, the role of media in communication and presentation of important developments during pandemic. The authors present an overview of the media system and the latest developments in the EU in preventing fake news related to the pandemic. We conclude that media plays key role in informing the citizens during pandemic and therefore they have increased responsibility in providing reliable information. At the same time, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the media have been challenged with parallel outbreaks of disinformation and misinformation about the virus, ranging from fake coronavirus cures, false claims and harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. Disinformation can in turn speed up the spread of disease, hinder effective public health responses, as well as create confusion, fear and distrust. We highlight the fundamental function of creating awareness regarding the topic based on facts, and the need of media for preventing panic and fostering people’s understanding by ‘checking the source and information twice’.

Temple-Raston, Dina and Harvey Rishikof, ‘Falsehoods and the Patois of Pandemics: A Playbook’ (2020) 11(1) Journal of National Security Law & Policy 213–227
Abstract: Dina Temple-Raston and Harvey Rishikof’s paper explores how falsehoods and misinformation have affected the public’s response to pandemics—both past and present. It describes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s field manual on epidemiology, and discusses New York’s failure to follow the manual at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper also outlines the broad legal framework federal and state governments can use to communicate or enforce their powers in response to pandemics; and concludes by identifying unaddressed pandemic-related disinformation issues on social media platforms.

Trzaskawka, Paula and Joanna Kic-Drgas, ‘Penetration of COVID-19 Related Terminology into Legal, Medical, and Journalistic Discourses’ (2022) 35(3) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique 937–960
Abstract: March 2020 has become a moment of change in communication mode and quality. Previously, the media paid attention to the current affairs, however, never earlier the journalistic discourse has been so influentially affected by the ongoing phenomenon as in the case of COVID-19. Almost overnight the new terminological phenomena with specific legal or medical reference were introduced into everyday language mainly via mass media and become an important part of a pandemic related narration. The strong influence on the shape of the mentioned linguistic changes has mainly the adoption of new legal regulations due to the unexpected outbreak of the pandemic. The aim of the following paper is to investigate how COVID-19 pandemic affected the specialisation of the journalistic discourse and how different domains (law, medicine) are being influenced by new terminology and in other way round, how for example law and medicine influence new ‘COVID language’. In order to take the interdisciplinary nature of the issue into account, the degree of hybridity of the selected texts will be examined by means of selected material analysis. The methodology applied in the paper uses an empirical approach and comparative analysis. The material used for the analysis comes from the selected Polish quality and boulevard press. The paper concerns the linguistic influence of the ‘invisible enemy’ on the language presented in press. The main findings reveal the intense use of neologisms, borrowings, and it shows that the discourse was changed linguistically thanks to Student’s t-test.

Unger, Wayne, ‘How Disinformation Campaigns Exploit the Poor Data Privacy Regime to Erode Democracy’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3762609, 14 December 2020)
Abstract: The U.S. is under attack. It is an information war, and disinformation is the weapon. Foreign and domestic actors have launched information operations and coordinated campaigns against western democracies using dis/misinformation. While the U.S. is both a disseminator and recipient of global or regional disinformation campaigns, this article focuses on the U.S. and its people as the recipient.From Russian election interference to COVID-19 conspiracies, disinformation campaigns harm the presumptive trust in democracy, democratic institutions, and public health and safety. While dis/misinformation is not new, the rapid and widespread dissemination of dis/misinformation has only recently been made possible by technological developments that enable mass communication and persuasion never seen before.Today, social media, algorithms, personal profiling, and psychology, when mixed together, enable a new dimension of political microtargeting—a dimension that disinformers exploit for their political gain. These enablers share a root cause—the poor data privacy and security regime in the U.S.At its core, democracy requires independent thought, personal autonomy, and trust in democratic institutions because an independently thinking and acting public is the external check on power and authority. However, when the public is misinformed or disconnected from fact and truth, the fundamental concept of democracy erodes—the public is no longer informed, independently thinking, and autonomous to elect its representatives and check their power. Disinformation, not rooted in fact and truth, attacks the core of democracy, and thus, the public check on governmental power. This article addresses a root cause—the lack of data privacy protections—of the dis/misinformation dissemination and its effects on democracy. This article explains, from a technological perspective, how personal information is used for personal profiling, and how personal profiling contributes to the mass interpersonal persuasion that disinformation campaigns exploit to advance their political goals.

Upperton, Theresa et al, ‘Lockdown by Press Conference? COVID-19 and the Rule of Law in New Zealand and Austria’ (2022) 82(3) Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht / Heidelberg Journal of International Law 577–604
Abstract: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Zealand and Austrian governments both imposed lockdowns in early 2020.This paper compares how these two responses were effected, communicated, and challenged. In both New Zealand and Austria, government communications misrepresented the extent of the lockdown, communicating measures more stringent than those legally in place. This divide between law and communications raised concerns for the rule of law, as citizens struggled to understand their legal obligations. In New Zealand, government communications were subjected to effect-based judicial review. In Austria, where the judicial review system has a stronger focus on the form of state action, government communications were not reviewed. The paper finds that the Austrian courts could have provided a similar remedy to that in New Zealand,but only through a novel and contentious approach. Preferably, the legislator should expressly bring crisis (mis)communication into the scope of Austrian judicial review.

van der Donk, Berdien, ‘Should Critique on Governmental Policy Regarding COVID-19 Be Tolerated on Online Platforms? An Analysis of Recent Case-Law in the Netherlands’ (2021) Journal of Human Rights Practice (forthcoming)
Abstract: This policy and practice note describes and discusses two recent decisions by the District Court in Amsterdam regarding the applicability of YouTube’s and Facebook’s Community Guidelines on COVID-19 misinformation. The decisions (Café Weltschmerz /YouTube and Smart Exit/Facebook) illustrate the tense intersection between, on the one hand, the possibility to express critique on the government’s policy to fight the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Netherlands, and on the other hand, the prevention of (dis)information with the potential to harm public health. The author will point out that the two decisions, although covering merely the same subject matter, differ significantly in argumentation regarding the (scope of the) application of the freedom of expression. Analysing this divergence in argumentation will show that the root of the difference can be traced back to a different valuation of the role of the online platforms regarding the dissemination of speech. A debate on this divergence is needed to prevent inconsistency in future decisions and contributes to the broader discussion on content regulation in the European Union.

Varela Castro, Samanta, Edgar O Bustos and Daniel Saldivia Gonzatti, ‘Reputation Management during a Public Health Crisis: Overcompensating When All Else Fails’ (2023) 83(5) Public Administration Review 1234–1245
Abstract: Although reactions to reputational threats have been studied before, there is still an opportunity to understand the dynamics of reputation management facing a crisis. This study seeks to understand how the legal-procedural, moral, performative, and technical dimensions of reputation change during the management of an extended crisis in a public health organization. We explore the communication of the Mexican Health Secretariat by analyzing its press conferences and releases before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Building on the situational crisis communication theory and considering public interest, we conducted two exploratory examinations based on text-as-data methods to capture reputation-related language. Our analysis suggests that factors influencing reputational threat, such as crisis severity, legitimacy, leaders’ individual reputation, and coalition support, may be important for choosing between strategies. We argue that the Secretariat radically changed its reputation management strategy during the pandemic—they first stressed the technical and, as damage rose, the performative dimensions.

Vese, Donato, ‘Governing Fake News: The Regulation of Social Media and the Right to Freedom of Expression in the Era of Emergency’ (2022) 13(3) European Journal of Risk Regulation 477–513
Abstract: Governments around the world are strictly regulating information on social media in the interests of addressing fake news. There is, however, a risk that the uncontrolled spread of information could increase the adverse effects of the COVID-19 health emergency through the influence of false and misleading news. Yet governments may well use health emergency regulation as a pretext for implementing draconian restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, as well as increasing social media censorship (ie chilling effects). This article seeks to challenge the stringent legislative and administrative measures governments have recently put in place in order to analyse their negative implications for the right to freedom of expression and to suggest different regulatory approaches in the context of public law. These controversial government policies are discussed in order to clarify why freedom of expression cannot be allowed to be jeopardised in the process of trying to manage fake news. Firstly, an analysis of the legal definition of fake news in academia is presented in order to establish the essential characteristics of the phenomenon (Section II). Secondly, the legislative and administrative measures implemented by governments at both international (Section III) and European Union (EU) levels (Section IV) are assessed, showing how they may undermine a core human right by curtailing freedom of expression. Then, starting from the premise of social media as a ‘watchdog’ of democracy and moving on to the contention that fake news is a phenomenon of ‘mature’ democracy, the article argues that public law already protects freedom of expression and ensures its effectiveness at the international and EU levels through some fundamental rules (Section V). There follows a discussion of the key regulatory approaches, and, as alternatives to government intervention, self-regulation and especially empowering users are proposed as strategies to effectively manage fake news by mitigating the risks of undue interference by regulators in the right to freedom of expression (Section VI). The article concludes by offering some remarks on the proposed solution and in particular by recommending the implementation of reliability ratings on social media platforms (Section VII).

Wang, Di and Zhifei Mao, ‘From Risks to Catastrophes: How Chinese Newspapers Framed the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Its Early Stage’ (2021) 23(3/4) Health, Risk & Society 93–110
Abstract: Beck identified delocalisation, uncalculability and non-compensability as three characteristics of modern risk, the recognition of which lies at the core of transforming insubstantial risks into urgent catastrophes. This study aimed to empirically test and enrich Beck’s theory by examining how the Chinese media framed COVID-19 during the first month of the pandemic’s outbreak, a critical period for the media’s staging of risk. We observed that the usage of the consequences and treatment responsibility frames lies at the core of transforming COVID-19 from a risk to a catastrophe. Initially, journalists framed the virus as conquerable at a local level, with calculable consequences and compensable solutions. In the second phase, after the central government and national health experts stepped in, journalists admitted that COVID-19 was uncontrollable at a local level, starting to transform the risk into a national catastrophe, and called for enhanced solutions to controlling the spread of the virus. In the third phase, journalists started to transform the local catastrophe into a global crisis, referring to the global community as an information source. By building a bridge between risk theory and framing theory, we found that, in the case of COVID-19, delocalisation, incalculability, and non-compensability were crucial factors in risk virtualisation. We argue that the different usage of the consequences and treatment responsibility frames can either prevent the transformation of a risk into a catastrophe or facilitate this transformation process.

Wardanie, Ismaya Hera, ‘Hoax Law Enforcement During Covid 19 Pandemic In Indonesia’ (2020) 1(1) Jurnal Liga Hukum 128–136
Abstract: The spread of hoax information is currently circulating more and more. The public receives hoax information more than once a day. Social media is the most important channel in the spread of hoaxes. The community becomes doubtful and doubtful about the effects of the hoax phenomenon in Indonesia. This situation is used by a group of people who are not responsible for inciting and inciting hatred. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to obtain a description of the interaction of communication hoaxes on social media and efforts to anticipate it. The research method used is a qualitative approach through hoax cases that are in an uproar in the community regarding issues arising from the pandemic Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19). Public opinion emerged that the information was valid because a lot of news hoax was spread and repeated through existing social media. There is a meaningful approach to anticipating the spread of hoaxes in the community, namely the institutional, technological and literacy approaches.

Whittaker, Alison, ‘No News Is No News: COVID-19 and the Opacity of Australian Prisons’ (2021) 33(1) Current Issues in Criminal Justice 111–119
Abstract: The abysmal conditions facing people inside Australian prisons are often difficult to draw public interest on. During COVID-19, when these conditions pose an even greater danger to the dignity, wellbeing and lives of people inside, why has mainstream media reporting on conditions – including personal protective equipment (PPE) and soap provision, lockdown, health resources and communication – been so sparse? This article will explore the tightening regulatory and legal net of communications and media coming from inside prisons to families, community, and media during COVID-19, and in the years preceding it. It will then outline the significance of these communications, access, and publication restrictions to the media and policy advocacy for COVID-19 decarceration in Australian prisons and the Australian abolition conversation generally.

Widmann, Tobias, ‘Fear, Hope, and COVID-19: Strategic Emotional Rhetoric in Political Communication and Its Impact on the Mass Public’ (SSRN Scholarly Paper No ID 3679484, 23 August 2020)
Abstract: Emotions play a vital role in the behaviour of individuals during pandemics. Fear, for instance, increases the likelihood that citizens follow public health advice while hope can induce false op­timism which can lead to lower levels of protective behavior. However, do political parties make strategic use of emotional appeals during pandemics? Furthermore, do these strategies succeed in actually influencing public opinion and thereby potentially citizens’ behaviour? To answer these questions, I use word embeddings and neural network classifiers to analyze social media output of political parties and different samples of the public in Germany during the first wave of the pandemic. Vector autoregression analyses (VAR) of time series show that the number of new COVID­19 cases per day predicts specific emotional rhetoric. While government parties increase fear and decrease hope, populist parties show the opposite behavior indicating a strategy of down­ playing the crisis. Furthermore, comparing retweet volumes of political messages to emotional expressions in almost 200,000 public tweets suggests that populist radical right parties, rather than government parties, succeed in influencing public opinion, even beyond partisan lines. This find­ing can carry important implications for the level of protective behavior among the population.

Windisen, Windisen, ‘Fake News in the Time of COVID-19 in Indonesia: Criminal Law Issues’ (2022) 2(2) Jurnal Kajian Pembaruan Hukum (advance article, published online 31 August 2022)
Abstract: The rise of world wide web has its janus face. While it is no longer possible to live without, the internet also causes social issues. One will be examined here is how law can cope with the acceleration amount of fake news. The spread of fake news via Internet in Indonesia during the COVID-19 pandemic has increasingly resulted in criminalization. One of the enforcement policy is based on Article 28(1) Electronic Information and Technology Law 11/2008. The article focused on measuring fake news in light of economic loss which in some degree also affected fair business competition. This study was conducted based on two main considerations. First, the nature of the criminal law that should be used as the last resort (ultimum remedium) in tackling social issues. Second, and still related with the previous, the damage control of the spread of fake news. In that regard, doctrinal legal approach was deployed with the aim to analyze the formulation and implementation of Article 28(1) of 11/2008 Law in tackling the fake news phenomenon. This study found that there are ambiguities on intrepretation which affecting the implementation of the law. To cope with such problem, the government consists of Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Chief of Public Prosecutor, and Chief of State Police enact Joint Decree to provide the guidelines on the application of Article 28(1); the policy should be considered as temporary instead of a permanent solution. This study suggested that in the long run there is a need to amend the Article 28(1).

Zhang, Dechun and Yuji Xu, ‘When Nationalism Encounters the COVID-19 Pandemic: Understanding Chinese Nationalism from Media Use and Media Trust’ (2023) 37(2) Global Society 176–196
Abstract: COVID-19, as a major public health crisis, has triggered nationalism to different degrees all around the world. This study utilises an online survey to explore the relationships between media use, media trust, and nationalism in China during the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that the level of nationalism was still considerably high in China at the time of the pandemic and that the role of the media in nation-state building enterprises remains significant. It becomes more pervasive after the news media’s adoption of digitalisation. Our study argues that contemporary China’s expression of nationalism is socially constructed by media and rooted in its Chinese Confucian culture. Meanwhile, the Chinese government is increasingly designing the news media and manages social media. It has already successfully constructed a sense of nationalism to facilitate its own interests in response to the national crisis. This has led nationalism being embodied in the media’s constructed social reality.

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