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Please join the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab for Weaponized: Understanding the COVID-19 narrative arms race, on Thursday, February 25, 3-4pm EST, an exclusive briefing by the editors of DFRLab’s new report Weaponized: How rumors about COVID-19’s origins led to a narrative arms race.The result of a nine-month joint research project by the DFRLab and the Associated Press, this report examines the information environments of four countries — China, Russia, Iran, and the United States — during the first six months of the COVID-19 outbreak and the false narratives that took hold there. The report focuses on how varying, unverified, and outright false narratives that the virus was a bioweapon or the result of a lab accident spread globally on social media and beyond, and the geopolitical consequences of those narratives.

The spread of COVID-19 has become not only one of the deadliest pandemics in modern history, but also a dominating flashpoint in the global contest for information among nations, with competing narratives reflective of competing political systems. The fact that there were conflicting narratives originating from different countries, as well as official and non-official sources, added to the informational chaos circulating on social media, traditional media, and public discourse in general. These narratives added to public mistrust in governments’ handling of the pandemic, and likely made international cooperation more difficult.

Opening remarks will be provided by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. Andy Carvin, Managing Editor at DFRlab, and Luiza Bandeira, Associate Editor at DFRLab and project lead, and Research Associate Jean le Roux will present DFRLab’s findings. They will also discuss how different state actors capitalized on the ‘infodemic’ to pursue domestic and foreign objectives, as well as the destructive impacts of these narratives, explaining how they impeded the international response to the outbreak of COVID-19.  

For more of the DFRLab’s coverage of COVID-19, please visit our Medium page.


Hon. Anna Eshoo
U.S. Representative (D-CA 18)
United States Congress

Andy Carvin
Managing Director

Luiza Bandeira
Associate Editor

Jean le Roux
Research Associate

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) has operationalized the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news, documenting human rights abuses, and building digital resilience worldwide.