China Television and Russia Today Disinformation after the World Cup

After France’s soccer world cup victory, millions went in the street to celebrate. Many people came from the suburbs, often proudly wearing French flags to party on the streets. Later in the evening, a fraction of this celebration turned violent. At least 3 stores were looted, 24 cars destroyed, and 292 people were arrested.

Online, disinformation campaigns started.

Fox News

Fox News had a very ambiguous headline:

There were 2 deaths. And there was a violent turn in some places. But the 2 deaths had nothing to do with the violence, contrary to what this headline suggests. As Fox News reports:

A 50-year-old man fatally broke his neck after leaping into a canal around the time the final whistle blew in France’s 4–2 win over Croatia, while a man in his 30s was killed in Saint-Felix after crashing his vehicle into a tree

For reference, France averages about 10 deaths by car accident a day.
Fox News concludes:

There was no immediate word on arrests.

Suggesting that police did nothing to stop the riots. However, 292 people were arrested. Fox News did not update their story.

Other channels directly implied the deaths came from the riots, such as:

Russia Today

… rioting on the streets of France that left two people dead and saw more than 500 people arrested…

Contrary to Fox News, RT chose to inflate the number of people arrested.

China Global Television Network

For CGTN, fans were killed in the riots:

Mistakes or disinformation?

It is possible that these were honest mistakes by misinformed journalists. In that case, their stories will get edited.

Disinformation is Alienating Us

The CGTN/RT disinformation might leave some people thinking that “the riots were deadly”, alienating a part of the population. Meanwhile, Fox News misinformation leaves people thinking that “the French police did not take action”, alienating another part of the population.

The Impact of Platforms

Video with sensational headlines will get more clicks and watch time. With current algorithms, those videos will end up more often on “up next”. Disinformation is not only hosted on platforms, it’s also actively amplified by them. Russia Today has more than 2, 400, 000, 000 views on YouTube. CGTN has more than 400, 000, 000 views. These channels have discovered that the benefits of disinformation is greater than the reputation risk/cost.

With current incentives, many YouTube channels get more views when they distort the truth. This creates a race to the bottom where users end up alienated from reality.

AlgoTransparency.org / Ex-Googler / AI for Good

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