Deadly Disinformation: How online conspiracies about Syria cause real-world harm by The Syria Campaign and Data4Change

‘Deadly Disinformation: How online conspiracies about Syria cause real-world harm’ reveals how human rights defenders, victims of war crimes, journalists and humanitarians on the frontlines in Syria have endured seven years of harassment and hate-filled disinformation attacks, in some cases endangering their lives. Despite overwhelming evidence that the Syrian regime has carried out crimes against humanity, systematic torture, used chemical weapons and indiscriminately bombed civilians, a small number of conspiracy theorists – sometimes aided by a Russian-backed disinformation campaign, other times inspired by Russia’s disinformation talking points – have distorted the facts, endangering peoples lives and casting doubts about events on the ground.

Frontline rescue workers, doctors and human rights defenders speaking out against atrocities by the regime have been labelled terrorists or liars and faced online harassment and smear campaigns. The traumatic experiences of survivors of chemical weapon attacks have been cruelly mocked. This has taken a devastating emotional and psychological toll on those targeted.

The report, which was published by The Syria Campaign in June 2022 is based on data analysis by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, who examined tens of thousands of tweets between 2015 and 2021, as well as interviews with people targeted by disinformation, policy-makers and policy experts. It traces a timeline of disinformation to illustrate its human cost and its impact on political decision-making over Syria. The report identifies 10 key impacts in the real world, and urges governments and social media platforms to take urgent action to stop disinformation over Syria. The printed and interactive digital report was conceptualized, designed and built in English and Arabic by Data4Change.