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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?

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.

Following an article published before the European elections on national parties, Pagella Politica has undertaken research on Twitter followers of six Italian political leaders by using TruthNest. What has emerged is that all individual leaders are followed by a consistent share of suspicious accounts. A share that is even larger of what was previously found in relation to followers of political parties.

These findings reinforce previous research and open avenues for additional investigations. This is just the initial step of a long term project that Pagella Politica and other SOMA’s partners have embarked on to analyze Twitter followers of world politicians.

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.