Video On Demand
Disinformation and Epidemics: Anticipating the Next Phase of Biowarfare
Rose Bernard
Rose Bernard
Runtime: 28:28
While biological warfare has classically been considered a threat requiring the presence of a distinct biological agent, I argue that in light of the rise of state-sponsored online disinformation campaigns, we are approaching a fifth phase of biowarfare with a "cyber-bio" framing. Through examining the rise of measles following disinformation campaigns connected to the U.S. 2016 presidential election, the rise of disinformation in the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of misinformation on public health interventions during the 2014-2016 Ebola Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and the 2019-2020 Kivu Ebola PHEIC, I ask whether the potential impact of these campaigns, which includes the undermining of socio-political systems, the delegitimization of public health and scientific bodies, and the diversion of the public health response, can be characterized as analogous to the impacts of more traditional conceptions of biowarfare. I look at these different impacts and at the norms that surround the use of biological weapons and cyber campaigns. In doing so, I anticipate the advent of a combined cyber-biological warfare. The latter is not dependent on the existence of a manufactured biological weapon, but manages to undermine social-political systems and public health through the weaponization of naturally occurring outbreaks.

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