Investigations

Have you spotted a post, a tweet, a reference or other content that seems misleading?
Let us examine it!

Is it true that Italy was the «first major European country» to adopt a contract-tracing app?

On June 2, during an interview with the national newscast Tg1, the Italian minister for Innovation and Digitalization Paola Pisano said that, among major European countries, Italy was «the first one» to adopt a national contact-tracing application. Pagella Politica fact-checked Pisano’s claim, and found it to be slightly inaccurate. Several SOMA partners took part in the investigation: the Austrian Center for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Maison Moderne, VOSTEuskadi, and Stratpol.

COVID-19 AND THROMBOSIS: MISINFORMATION THAT FLEW AROUND THE WORLD

Starting from early April, a long message began circulating online claiming that Covid-19 is actually a thrombosis and not a case of pneumonia. The news was shared in a variety of languages and countries, as confirmed by fellow SOMA members from VOSTEuskadi and Factchecker.gr. In this analysis, we shed some light on the content of the viral message by gathering official information from authoritative sources in the medical and scientific international community.

COVID-19: SCHOOL CLOSURES IN EUROPE

As the COVID-19 epidemic spreads all over the world, countries decided to implement extraordinary restrictive measures aimed at stopping contagions and easing the extreme levels of pressure experienced by hospitals and healthcare workers. In order to favor social distancing practices and avoid large gatherings, 26 out of 27 European countries – the only exception being Sweden – decided to close schools and move to online learning classes. Here is an updated overview of the current situation. To complete this investigation, Pagella Politica has collaborated with several members of the SOMA network, including the Austrian Center for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Artevelde Hogeschool, University of Nicosia, Faktabaari, Ekome, Maison Moderne, and Kosciuszko Institute.

Since March 10, 2020, Italian residents who leave their household must fill out a “self-declaration form”  to be carried with them to justify the reasons for their movement in case they are asked by police authorities. Pagella Politica has started a research to find out which European countries have adopted the same measure in order to contrast the Covid-19 epidemic. As SOMA network member Ellinika Hoaxes confirmed, the self-declaration form was mandatory in Greece from March 23 to May 4, 2020. The measure has also been adopted in France, where it is still effective.

COVID-19 AND 5G: HOW TO STOP CONSPIRACY THEORIES FROM SPREADING

Last week SOMA – the European Observatory against Disinformation – has published an investigation that details a series of hoaxes and conspiracy theories related to an alleged correlation between Covid-19 and 5G technology. This investigation comes at a point in which disinformation on this issue is trending (graph is included), leading – as we will see – to unexpected and dangerous consequences.

COVID-19 AND 5G: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HOAXES FIND EACH OTHER?

In the same way of legitimate news outlets, disinformation websites have a tendency to focus again and again on some beloved topics. One of these is the idea that 5G technology is harmful to human health, a claim that is has been repeatedly debunked.
But what happens to these beloved topics when a newcomer emerges, as in the case of Covid-19? Does one trump the other?

OFFICIAL SOURCES ON COVID-19

In recent weeks, a series of false news on Covid-19 – a disease that has originated in China and that is now spreading around the entire globe – have been circulating on social media and disinformation websites. For this reason, on the 19th of February SOMA – the European Observatory against Disinformation – published an article that debunks some of the most misleading pieces of information on the virus outbreak.

FALSE NEWS SPREAD MORE RAPIDLY THAN CORONAVIRUS 2019-nCoV

In a globalized world, viruses have the potential to spread rapidly across the human population in all continents. However, these pathogens spread at a rate that pales in comparison with the speed at which false news on those very pathogens is disseminated online. The recent outbreak of the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV is not an exception to this rule. Regardless of the fact that many Western countries have experienced very low numbers of cases, social media users have been posting alarming news regarding outbreaks in their own country. At the same time, conspiracy theories related to the origins of this virus have been created.

Matteo Renzi – former Italian Prime Minister – has said that the Italian “cultural pass”, a policy that grants €500 to 18-year-old kids for culturally related purchases (books, tickets for cultural events, etc.), has been replicated all around Europe. Pagella Politica has found this claim to be inaccurate. As confirmed by other SOMA partners (Eurasylum, Front Europejski, Delano, Faktabaari, Le Monde Diplomatique) there is no such policy in other European countries, the only exception being France, which has adopted this measure experimentally.

In the last days Sanna Marin, the new young Prime Minister of Finland, has been mentioned by international news outlets for an alleged proposal for reducing the number of working hours per week. However, the Prime Minister has not officially advanced such a proposal and the Finnish government has specified that this measure is not on the government’s agenda. But how and why has this story started? Thanks to the help of the Finnish fact-checkers from FaktaBaari, Pagella Politica has carried out an investigation on the origins of this global misunderstanding.

Is it safe to judge the popularity of a political party based on the number of its Twitter followers? Probably not. Following BuzzFeed’s article regarding the suspicious nature of the rapid increase in followers of the Twitter account of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, Pagella Politica has started an analysis of the Twitter followers of the main Italian political parties.

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán has delivered a speech in which he questioned Finland’s role in judging Hungary’s adherence to the Rule of Law based on some institutional features of the Nordic country.

But what is the Rule of Law? Is Orbán’s description of Finland’s legal system accurate? Are the elements mentioned by Orbán fundamental to the Rule of Law? Pagella Politica and Faktabaari have decided to undertake a joint effort in order to answer to these queries.

The result? The Hungarian Prime Minister grossly misrepresents Finnish institutional system and the principles of the Rule of law to prove his point.

What are the hottest topics for false information in different EU countries? Thanks to the collaboration with the Finnish fact-checking organization FaktaBaari, Pagella Politica has compared their most recurrent themes in Italy and Finland to see whether major differences exist. The outcome of the investigation was that in both countries migrants and people of different religions are most often at the core of disinformation campaigns. In Italy, however, another very recurrent theme for false news is politicians, whereas the same is not true for Finland.