Coronavirus in Polish online media – what was the attitude of the most opinion-forming news portals in Poland to COVID-19 vaccines?

Centrum Analiz Propagandy i Dezinformacji
Author: Centrum Analiz Propagandy i DezinformacjiEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Since the invention of the COVID-19 vaccine, many articles have appeared in the Polish information space about vaccination against the coronavirus, the origin of the vaccine, its safety and possible side effects. The Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis carried out a detailed monitoring of the Polish media to take a closer look at the discussion on vaccination in cyberspace. As a result of the analysis of detailed data collected over the last months, a report titled “COVID-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces” was developed.

Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis

For the purposes of the monitoring, five most opinion-forming Internet domains in Poland were selected: onet.pl, wp.pl, interia.pl, wpolityce.pl, gazeta.pl. Selected online media have been tested In terms of the number of articles including information about COVID-19 vaccines. Both quantitative and qualitative research has been carried out.

Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis

The articles appearing in the above-mentioned news websites have been analyzed in terms of theirr attitude towards the COVID-19 vaccine. They were divided into three groups: pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine and neutral. The vast majority, namely over 87% of the analyzed texts (within the 10.05 – 4.07.2021 time frame) were neutral, which means that the news were limited to presenting facts about the vaccine and vaccination against coronavirus, without framing the information in a positive or negative way. The largest number of anti-vaccine articles appeared on the interia.pl portal (37 articles). At the same interia.pl had the highest number of news on this topic in general (296 articles). The gazeta.pl news portal turned out to be the most objective one, as much as 93% of the published articles were neutral.

Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis

During the monitoring process of the Polish information space, a qualitative analysis of the emerging news in terms of their subject matter was also carried out - the analyzed texts were divided into two categories: articles on the situation in Poland and those on international affairs. 52.4% of the studied news concerned the COVID-19 vaccine in the context of Poland. Articles in the wp.pl, wpolityce.pl and gazeta.pl domains focused on the situation in the country more frequently. On the other hand, portals such as onet.pl and interia.pl were more leaning towards covering the international situation.

Research on the Polish information space conducted between 10.05 and 04.07.2021 shows that the Polish online media showed a neutral attitude towards the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination. The published articles concerned both the situation in the country and vaccine diplomacy abroad.

Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis

READ THE FULL REPORT: This article is part of the “ COVID-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces” report that we will publish shortly.

Methodology

The Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis on 10.05-29.08.2021 monitored the Polish and Russian information space in the context of information on vaccines against COVID-19. The study was conducted using the Pulsar online information monitoring and analysis platform. For the sake of this analysis, 5 online mainstream media from Poland and Russia were selected. Polish media selection was based on the 2020 ranking of the most opinion-forming Internet portals, along with 5 additional information portals, bypassing the industry ones: onet.pl, wp.pl, interia.pl, wpolityce.pl and gazeta.pl. Russian media was selected on the basis of the 2020 ranking of the most opinion-forming Internet portals with nationwide coverage, available in the Pulsar media database: Rbc.ru, Gazeta.ru, Lenta.ru, Kp.ru and Fontanka.ru.

An optimized list of the following keywords representing the names of individual vaccines or their producers was used for monitoring purposes.

For the Polish information space:

AstraZeneca OR Vaxzevria OR "Astra Zeneca" OR CanSino OR Convidecia OR Ad5-nCoV OR Covaxin OR BBV152 OR "Bharat Biotech" OR CureVac OR CVnCoV OR Johnson & Johnson OR "Johnson & Johnson" OR J&J OR Jansen OR Janssen OR Moderna OR mRNA-1273 Novavax OR NVX-CoV2373 OR Pfizer OR BioNTech OR BioNTech-Pfizer OR Pfizer-BioNTech OR BNT162 OR Sputnik OR Sinovac OR CoronaVac OR Sinopharm OR Vero OR EpiVacCorona OR CoviVac OR QazVac OR QazCovid-in

For the Russian information space: 

AstraZeneca OR Vaxzevria OR "Astra Zeneca" OR CanSino OR CanSino-Biologics OR Convidecia OR Ad5-nCoV OR Covaxin OR BBV152 OR "Bharat Biotech" OR CureVac OR CVnCoV OR Johnson & Johnson OR "Johnson & Johnson" OR J&J OR Jansen OR Janssen OR Moderna mRNA-1273 OR Novavax OR NVX-CoV2373 OR Pfizer OR BioNTech OR BioNTech-Pfizer OR Pfizer-BioNTech OR BNT162 OR Sputnik OR Sinovac OR CoronaVac OR Sinopharm OR Vero OR EpiVacCorona OR CoviVac OR QazVac OR QazCанкеке OR енсекеке OR енсекекаЗ Конвиденция OR OR "Джонсон и Джонсон" OR "Модерна" Пфайзер OR OR OR Синофарм "клетки Веро" Синовак OR OR OR Коронавак "Спутник V" OR "Спутник Лайт" OR ЭпиВакКорона КовиВак OR OR OR КазВак КазКовид-ин

In both cases, the same list of vaccines and their producers were used. The differences in the spelling are solely due to the peculiarities of both information spaces, the prevalence of used vaccine names and, in case of the Russian information space, the use of English and Russian equivalents of the names of vaccines and their producers as well.

For further analysis, both quantitative and qualitative, only the news containing at least one name of the vaccine or the producer were selected. Publications in which the name of the vaccine or the producer were included in sections of the website other than the content of the article itself (e.g. recommended links to other articles) were identified and rejected as false positives. The  "Sputnik" keyword turned out to be a methodological challenge both in the Polish and Russian information space, because due to its prevalence in contexts other than the name of the vaccine, this lead to relatively many false positive results. Therefore, it was required to conduct the verification of the results obtained from the Pulsar platform automatically as well as manually, in order to eliminate any news irrelevant to the topic of COVID-19 vaccines.

Each article was then categorized according to the name of the vaccine or a producer that had appeared in the publication: AstraZeneca, CanSino, Convidecia, Covaxin, CoviVac, CureVac, EpiVacCorona, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, QazVac, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V and Vero Cell. Eeach article could have been assigned to more than one category. In case of the Russian information space, the "Sputnik" category had been split into "Sputnik V" and "Sputnik Light" subcategories. This is due to the prevalence of information about both Russian vaccines in the local media, which did not apply to the Polish media.

Similarly, all articles were assigned to the “country of origin of each vaccine producer” category. For the purposes of this analysis, a simplified assignment of vaccines and their producers to the producer's country was adopted: AstraZeneca - Great Britain, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax - USA, CureVac - Germany, CoviVac, EpiVacCorona, Sputnik V and Sputnik Light - Russia, QazVac - Kazakhstan, CanSino, Convidecia, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Vero Cell - China, Covaxin - India.

The other analysis categories are the following:

- an attitude towards vaccines and vaccination against COVID-19 (pro-vaccine news in case of p vaccination vaccine promotion, anti-vaccine ones in case of vaccination discouragement and content with neutral stance towards vaccines);

- a reference to the situation in Poland / Russia or abroad in the context of COVID-19 vaccines;

- a qualitative analysis regarding the content of monitored publications.

The publication is part of the report: ‘COVID-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces’.  This report has been prepared with support from IRI's Beacon Project. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of IRI.