May 28, 2019

2020 misinformation campaigns take aim at the latest spook issues

Illustration: Gerald Rich, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Efforts to sow discord via misinformation ahead of the 2020 election cycle are pegged to a new set of societal controversies, including the race to spread 5G, anti-vaccine fears, and immigration.

Why it matters: The timelier the issue within the national conversation, the more effective it can be to sow confusion.

Flashback: The key misinformation targets during 2016 focused on memes and posts around #BlueLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo.

"The most effective form of disinformation has the ring of truth."
— Matthew F. Ferraro, a lawyer at Wilmer Hale who writes about misinformation issues

The big picture: Deepfake technology is making it easier to create misinformation about about our preconceived concerns or doubts.

  • A good example: The video of Nancy Pelosi that went viral last week, which was slowed down to make her appear drunk.
  • Similar misinformation schemes around Hillary Clinton being sick circulated in 2016, playing off a "weak, older woman" narrative.

The bottom line: "Sometimes that is the point – not to convince you of one thing but to make you doubt the accuracy of anything," says Ferraro.

Go deeper: How Russia’s disinformation strategy is evolving

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America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."