The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect setting for spreading malign and deliberate misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda from various hostile actors. Public trust in state institutions and the government is low – research done by the Easter European Studies Center in 2020 shows that only 24% of the Lithuanian population trust the parliament, 43% trust the government of Lithuania, and only 8% – the political parties. The vaccination process is especially fragile and sensitive to any external or internal meddling. These factors suggest that Lithuania could be potentially targeted by various disinformation and propaganda campaigns to lower the Lithuanian population’s motivation and trust in the vaccination process. One of the main sources of information for Lithuanians is social media; as information on such platforms can spread rapidly and there is little oversight, this research explores the potential for manipulating public opinion.
The research is being conducted using the Pulsar and CrowdTangle tools, which analyse and monitor social network trends by using selected keywords. The research period was selected from January 1 to July 1, 2021, in order to objectively analyse long-term dynamics and trends in the Lithuanian social media sphere. The first report focuses on the ten most interacted-with actors on Facebook who were reporting on COVID-19 vaccination processes in Lithuania. This report was done using the CrowdTangle tool, and the data set was narrowed using the main (see Keywords used) keywords. The keywords were selected in order to ensure their relevance to the topic of the vaccination process in Lithuania. Additionally, this strict selection of keywords prevented “noise” from the selected data set, as they are specifically tied to the vaccination process and are typically not used in any other posts outside the COVID-19 context.