Experts of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, who constantly monitor the Information environment, drew attention to the fact that, as the quarantine was extended, Covid vaccine falsehoods continued to be spread in online comment sections and on social media. Military analysts have observed the ongoing destructive online discussions and targeted provocations, as well as the prevalence of anonymous hate speech on the web.
According to the analysis carried out by the Strategic Communication Department of the Lithuanian Armed Forces in January, public Facebook comments and comments in the comment sections under the websites articles about COVID-19, published in the Lithuanian traditional media, both online debates and comments led to further spread of misinformation on Covid vaccine.
During the period analyzed, the analysts noticed that Facebook groups had increased their engagement in discussions about the origins of the coronavirus and appeared to raise doubts over the efficacy of the vaccine. Opinions were expressed that the country had a high mortality rate due to the lack of timely and effective health care, and that the situation was further aggravated by the quarantine.
In January, the situation with conspiracy theories intensified in social media – anti-vaccination theorists had plenty of fuel to burn.
The military analysts drew attention to the deliberate spread of misinformation on the negative consequences of the quarantine. Some internet users shared links with visual content related to the anti-quarantine protests in the European Union, while others expressed their frustration with business restrictions now in place. Conspiracy theories ripped through the internet during the period under review.
From 20 to 27 January, part of Lithuanian society were deeply dissatisfied with plans to extend the quarantine and travel restrictions in the country, and unhappy about the President’s vaccination plans for the general population. However, the biggest regret that people expressed was over the proposal by the Government Emergency Commission to extend the lockdown until 28 February.
According to the analysts, a large part of the negative and misleading information has been created deliberately, consciously or unconsciously seeking to undercut public trust in the Lithuanian health care system, and to call into question the competence of the leaders of the country.
During the reviewed period, the analysts also monitored the Russian Information environment and observed that the coronavirus pandemic was accompanied by deliberate attempts by foreign actors to mislead Lithuanian users.
Several Russian news websites published misleading information on the procurement of the vaccine authorized across the EU and questioned the reliability of vaccines made by Western companies. COVID-19 vaccine misinformation raged, as unknown doctors or experts wrote Social media posts, saying that COVID-19 vaccines were ineffective. Many COVID-19 rumours or myths were spread deliberately, including that the European Union vaccination plans had failed, because people did not want to get vaccinated, and that the vaccination drive was very slow.
The media in third countries also published negative information, reminding that Lithuania was leading in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Europe, also saying that the Lithuanian Government had failed to control the virus and to handle the pandemic crisis.
Lithuanian military analysts believe, that such deliberate activities in internet has the intent to amplify society's confusion, discredit the country’s health care system and undermine public trust in the Government.