Dispelling Misinformation About Monkeypox 2.0

On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a Global Health Emergency as a result of a rising number of outbreaks. Overwatch’s previous brief, entitled “Dispelling Misinformation About Monkeypox,” addressed fundamental issues surrounding the disease. From the time of the brief on May 24, 2022, to the writing of this brief, the number of confirmed monkeypox cases has grown from two confirmed cases in the United States to now 8,933, and globally, the cases have risen from 92 cases as of May 7, 2022, to 30,189.

Monkeypox Chart

In this brief, Overwatch analysts review how the narrative for monkeypox has evolved. Since the announcement from the WHO, there has continued to be a flood of misinformation, disinformation, and finger-pointing about the origin and reasons for the continued spread of the disease.

Misinformation Fuels Disinformation

The original assessment noted, “If misinformation spreads to countries like China or Russia, they could spread disinformation about the U.S. and Europe being responsible for the virus as was done with COVID-19.”

Since May, we have seen many articles in traditional mainstream news and publicly available sites and platforms conducting their journalistic responsibilities by questioning the U.S. response. Analysts identified occasional loose comparisons to the U.S. response to COVID-19 and questions about why we did not act against the new pandemic threat.

In most cases, articles addressed reasons, and promoters of disinformation used snippets or headlines to create unfounded accusations. Analysts have seen messages by pro-CCP group Wumao, claiming that the U.S. and Western countries are sending infected birds to spread monkeypox to China and other Asian countries. Wumao, or the 50cent army, is a pro-CCP group that creates comments or articles intended to derail negative sentiment toward the CCP.

The intent is to create more division and blame. The Chinese narratives emerged in May and have continued unabated but are largely overlooked in the U.S. digital environment.

Example of translated WhatsApp message spread throughout Indonesia:

Hey, guys. No matter where you are, if you see a bird that can’t fly, can’t walk or struggle on the ground, you should never catch it, for fear of monkeypox infection. The relevant community has informed you, please pay attention to it. Remember United States and Western countries used the birds to carry take the Monkeypox virus to spread to the Asian region! My sister sent it from Germany and asked me to inform family and friends immediately. Have relatives and friends on the notice, do not because of compassion, get infected unknowingly.

好友轉來告知:
各位。不管在那,看見不能飛,不能走,在地上掙扎的鳥,千萬不能抓,怕是猴痘傳染,有關社區己通知,望大家注意。切記!以上美國和西方國家對亞洲地區通過鳥類可以帶猴痘病毒傳染到亞洲地區!我妹妹從德國傳來的,要我立刻通知親友。有親友就通知一下,別因為心慈悲染痘害人

This message was baseless and allegedly produced by Wumao. References to the message were accompanied by keywords such as ’‘hoax’ and ‘fake story’ and have been mainly seen on Indonesian information platforms1.

This has illuminated that the CCP wants a vector of influence in Indonesia and surprisingly enough, there are truth watch dogs actively combating it. (Fitri Haryanti Harsono from Liputan6 and Dr. Adrian Wong from Techarp.com).

Other sources, such as the New Federal State of China (NFSC) Himalaya Australia, combat CCP influence by generating more false narratives compounding monkeypox misinformation. This can be incredibly dangerous when dealing with sensitive issues relating to pandemics or global health crises.

This post by the NFSC’s Miles Guo was spread across all major social media platforms3. There is an air of provocation in Guo’s voice as he speaks in his video of the CCPs potential retaliation due to the recent Taiwan visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In this video (*reference Wayback Machine if taken down from Twitter), Guo alleges that the CCP will create a new virus that will “most likely originate from the Middle East” and would be a variant of other diseases or created by “mating” desert wildlife.

The art of being first is how disinformation campaigns gain traction. The above post is meant to provoke the CCP into a response, legitimizing Guo and NFSC_HAGnews’ narrative. Being first in the narrative allows the NFSC_HAGNews to gain a following that observes the accused (CCP), having to combat quickly drafted messages of the accuser (NFSC_HAGNews).

As the number of verified infections grows, disinformation narratives will grow. Small enablers exacerbating public opinion in the U.S. will continue to add compelling and thought-provoking ideas on top of any press release or news article to capture and hold an audience’s attention.

* Specific posts or videos referencing misinformation and disinformation are often deleted from major social media and news sites. Using the Wayback machine, researchers can reference once deleted posts, articles, and videos that were archived. The Miles Guo video has been captured here in the Wayback Machine.

Targeted LGBTQ Community

What has taken hold of the U.S. social media landscape is the predominance of infections within the gay community, triggering emotional responses outside and within the community, in both pro and anti-camps. The CDC’s confirmation of the first monkeypox cases in the United States in two unrelated children at the end of July 2022 was when this was most apparent. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky made the following statement in a virtual event with the Washington Post, “Both of those children are traced back to individuals who come from the men-who-have-sex-with-men community, the gay men’s community…” The official statement released by the CDC went further on to state that both cases were “likely the result of household transmission.” And even though the release states that sexual contact is not the only way to spread the disease and heterosexuals can contract monkeypox just as quickly as persons who identify as “gay,” the polarizing narratives began almost immediately. On the same day of the updated release Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene asked in a tweet, “If monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease, why are kids getting it?” The tweet has over 38k likes and 9,879 retweets as of this writing.

The formula is textbook: CDC officials or public officials provide the most current information possible, a prominent official or social media influencer makes a rhetorical comment, and the ensuing chain of response allows disinformation narratives to flow into the larger conversation.

From the creation of fake memes pushing a particular narrative, such as the one created by Twitter user “The Ferryman’s Toll,” that has been retweeted 281 times.

To the reports of hate crimes being committed towards LGBTQ members, such as an August 9, 2022, report by the Daily News (Assuncao, 2022) that a Washington, D.C. gay couple was attacked by teens who called them “monkeypox f—-s.”

When facts are disregarded in order to increase one’s number of supporters, likes, or political status, echo chambers are created, and the ensuing misinformation and disinformation propagated within them can have disastrous results. Echo chambers exist because social media users do not take personal responsibility for information shared, and sharing occurs without full context or conducting further research, which can prevent polarizing narratives before they divert attention from the main issue.

World Health Organization (WHO) Perspective

The WHO closely monitors the outbreak and favors international cooperation and information sharing with partners and member states. Since the declaration, their messaging has been in line with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding how an individual contracts the virus. However, while WHO states in one tweet that “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus and can fuel the outbreak,” WHO also has multiple tweets singling out the Men of the LGBTQ community.

Unfortunately, discriminatory tweets are becoming increasingly popular. While WHO’s messaging around monkeypox has focused on those currently most affected by the spread of the disease, gay men, there is an underlying danger that this approach could add fuel to the narrative that this is a disease affecting gay men only. As with Covid 19, when government messaging transforms to fit the new realities of a crisis, old messaging is often resurfaced and contorted to create disinformation. While Twitter can be an efficient medium to publish alerts, the lack of context allowed by character limits can often limit qualifying statements and the addition of vital context.

Our Assessment

We assess that misinformation and disinformation messaging will closely follow the increased number of those infected with monkeypox. This issue’s vector of influence won’t just stay within the confines of the United States. We have already demonstrated that anti-US and anti-CCP influencers are attempting to control the story in Asia and possibly the Middle East.

We stand by our original assessment that if outbreak numbers exceed acceptable levels, the likelihood of quarantines or mandatory government policies could be implemented to mitigate the spread of infection. If this happens, combined with negative popular sentiment due to successful disinformation messaging, we could see in-person protests leading to pockets of civil unrest.

Overwatch will continue to monitor Monkeypox-related issues arising in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Russia, and the U.S.

*Keyword associations to keep on alert; supply chain disruption, lockdown, mandatory vaccination, quarantine, Monkeypox, MPV, MPXV, contact tracing, or hMPXV.

*Google Alerts allows you to create a list of keywords to follow and have articles and posts sent daily to your email

OSINT Monitor Workflow

IBM Watson News Explorer

Gigatweeter

SocialBlade

Tgstat

CDC Infection Rate Map

World Health Organization

 

 

Sources

  1. Adrian Wong, Is U.S. Sending Infected Birds To Spread Monkeypox?!

 https://www.techarp.com/facts/us-birds-monkeypox-china/

Anas Surya, Hoaxes Of The United States And European Countries Deliberately SpreadIng Monkey Pox To Asia – NEW OR HOAX

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8cxsji

Fitri Haryanti Harsono, Viral message chain of transmission of Monkeypox carried by birds, is it?

Viral Pesan Berantai Penularan Cacar Monyet Dibawa oleh Burung, Apa Iya? – Health Liputan6.com (www-liputan6-com.translate.goog)

World Today, Viral message chain of transmission of monkeypox carried by birds, is it? https://www.world-today-news.com/viral-message-chain-of-transmission-of-monkeypox-carried-by-birds-is-it/

  1. Miles Guo, The CCP will most likely unleash another new virus!

https://gettr.com/post/p1lbsb5b7bb , (2) NFSC_HAGnews (@NFSC_HAGnews) / Twitter , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrAmk2N5VQI , Chinese whistleblower Miles Guo: “Monkeypox is just an excuse! (bitchute.com)

  1. Muri Assuncao, Washington, D.C. gay couple say they were attacked by 2 teens, who called them ‘monkeypox f—-ts’

https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ny-dc-couple-attacked-teens-homophobic-slur-monkeypox-20220809-wvu3e627tzanxov4mprny6j3le-story.html

  1. World Health Organization (WHO) Twitter Page https://twitter.com/WHO/status/1552286397054287875

Does Valuable Intelligence Have To Be Classified?

SCIF

Intelligence agencies and commercial companies have long struggled with the concept and inception of adopting open-source intelligence (OSINT) into their range of capabilities. Open-source intelligence is a way of collecting and analyzing publicly available information. In today’s world, there is no shortage of content. The data is overwhelming and is outpacing the available resources of skilled open-source analysts who are trained on the methodology to apply critical thinking skills.

Traditionally, government agencies have gathered intelligence in a sensitive compartmented information facility often referred to as a SCIF. The purpose of a SCIF is to safeguard and store classified information. This practice is now being challenged by intelligence professionals who recognize the value behind publicly available information (PAI) and the advancements of OSINT.

Active collection of intelligence to answer requirements has been a constant. However, today intelligence and research professionals can take a more passive role in the collection process. This is due to the overwhelming number of social networks and content creators, who intentionally engage with digital content at an average rate of  3 hours per day, according to Hootsuite Social Analytics.

Nefarious actors, organizations, and entities are sharing and making their presence known at an alarming rate, and they are doing it on public channels. The speed at which this valuable information gets to the collector can now be instant. A recent example is the Ukraine/Russia conflict.

Even though OSINT and its methods have technically been around for almost a century and the term was not coined by the US Military until the 1980s, the conflict in Ukraine, civil unrest, and the crippling economic effects of COVID shined a brighter light on the need to timely and accurately collect public information.

To know a populace you must engage them, and what better way to know a distant populace than to ingest their by-the-minute sentiment and first-hand reports of an ongoing situation?

The conflict in Ukraine alone showed the value of publicly available satellite imagery to depict Russian military movements and posts from actual military members on the ground illustrating the disinformation and misinformation being spread.

OSINT in Ukraine

OSINT, being comprised of rapidly growing amounts of cell phone videos, online information, social media, and commercial images, has enabled intelligence professionals and at-home analysts to collect information around the globe, with no need for classified capabilities.

There is a vast amount of PAI which grows worldwide by the second. The intelligence community can no longer ignore the wealth of that information and its place in answering real-world requirements.

What currently lacks in the commercial space and government abroad is the training to enable analysts and researchers to harness this trove of information, but most importantly do it accurately and timely with the depth it requires. The military is now taking notice of commercial OSINT training for its own analysts to fully capture the common operating picture of any situation.

With the major disruption to international economies by COVID, having by-the-moment information was key to being proactive to ensure corporations large and small could have enough reaction time to redirect logistic lines, prepare for shortages, and handle appropriate customer needs. Many companies tapped into social media to uncover supply chain insights of panic buying during the pandemic. When researchers looked at sentiment across 200k social media posts to observe influence of individuals’ perception of threat to the supply chain and scarcity of products, it ultimately led to panic buying and creating a strain on the supply chain.

This critical need for OSINT and the collection of PAI was captured by Harvard Business Journal in an article titled “OSINT – The untapped treasure trove of United Nations Organizations,” where it outlined the catastrophic loss to international agendas and economies was due to a lacking ability to collect the raw social data and interpret it into global business decisions.

There are over 500 million tweets worldwide that are published each day. Facebook adds 350 million photos daily. YouTube adds 720,000 hours of video and Reddit has 500,000 comments every 24 hours. With that sheer amount of public data each day, the ability to harness that and ingest it into answering real-world problems is of extreme value and importance to any commercial and government industry.

Content Infographic

Image Source: Domo

There still is an immense value and always will be to having classified means of collecting information and data to enable decision-makers to affect ongoing problem sets. The sensitive data that is collected by classified means is a key to ensuring those decisions are accurate and proportionate. On the other hand, not all issues need large-scale solutions. Insight and analysis of current local and international issues can be and are derived from much cheaper and easily accessible sources.

The need for an OSINT capability, no matter the industry or requirements, is growing exponentially. Companies large and small have taken notice and begun filling OSINT analyst positions within their ranks to increase proactive decision-making that keeps their interests, brand, personnel, and property safe.

Our Assessment

Commercial industries will lead the OSINT training venture and increase their abilities with technology backed by methodology. As common, the government will take the ability to a new level to answer real-world requirements which will feed the commercial technology and training environment. Industries that currently lack a capable OSINT function within will struggle to stay ahead of quickly changing situations and information. Forward-leaning organizations will quickly train and enable their own analysts to collect and analyze PAI. The landscape of social analytics will continue to increase but so will privacy restrictions, changing with the adaptation of collection abilities. Businesses and organizations that fail to see the immediate need for OSINT capabilities will continue to struggle with ongoing economic, cultural, and social changes, ultimately affecting their brand and public standing.

 

 

Echo Analytics Group Partners with All Things Possible for Fourth Skull Games Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

ECHO ANALYTICS GROUP PARTNERS WITH ALL THINGS POSSIBLE FOR FOURTH SKULL GAMES INITIATIVE

Counter Human Trafficking Event Takes Place August 6-7

TAMPA, FL (August 2, 2022) –Echo Analytics Group (EAG) is partnering with All Things Possible (ATP) to host the fourth Skull Games event on August 6-7. The Skull Games program crowdsources the collection of open-source intelligence (OSINT) to enable law enforcement with leads on trafficked victims and persons of interest.

The two-day event brings together vetted volunteers who have experience in open-source intelligence (OSINT) to aid in the identification of victims and persons of interest to help combat sex trafficking. The volunteers work together at the EAG Operations Center and online across the country to partner and provide information and support to law enforcement. At the conclusion of the weekend, EAG and ATP send detailed reports to law enforcement with a path of discovery for them to obtain warrant or probable cause to find victims or criminals. The previous three Skull Games identified approximately 45 victims and 20 persons of interest in eight states.

Jeff Tiegs, who served as a U.S. Army Ranger and Delta Force Operator, is the Chief Operating Officer of All Things Possible Ministries. Tiegs uses his expertise and experience to counter human trafficking with the help of Echo Analytics Group and their research platform, TORCH.

“The ability to recruit and groom victims is at an all-time high,” said Tiegs. “Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are riddled with predators. They are all over Minecraft and Roblox. They use mediums where you can share photos and videos. They are on Whisper and Scout, and they are on all the dating sites.”

“The work that Jeff and the team at All Things Possible is critical to helping law enforcement across the country,” said Buddy Jericho, CEO of Echo Analytics Group. “Through our work together, we can help save lives and put an end to human trafficking.”

Media interested in Skull Games should contact Jeffrey Kamis at 813.784.3642 for more information and interview opportunities.

About All Things Possible

The mission of All Things Possible is to identify, interrupt and restore those affected by trauma. This is done through law enforcement support and enablement. For more information, visit https://victormarx.com/.

About Echo Analytics Group

Echo Analytics Group (EAG) is a veteran owned and operated intelligence firm based in Tampa, Florida. EAG brings military grade intelligence to the private sector, combining publicly available information with advanced research methodologies to empower businesses and people to make informed decisions. With the overwhelming amount of content created daily, EAG provides best-in-class research resources from tools, case management systems, investigations, education and even analysts to make real-time decisions. To learn more, visit: echoanalyticsgroup.com/torch/.