Annarita Criscitiello Rosanna De Rosa

From disinformation to malign foreign influence. Four arenas of dissemination

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The topic of disinformation entered the public debate in an overbearing manner along with what was the first real global test of many countries’ resilience, the 2020 pandemic crisis. Covering a variety of issues – from its origin to vaccine research or impact on societies – the creation and dissemination of online disinformation about Covid-19 soon became widespread. The most recent developments in the phenomenon of disinformation have opened up questions on topics such as foreign information influence and malign influence that – although not entirely new – deserve to be conceptually systematised before being further investigated by political science. The objective of this article is threefold. First, by resorting to the literature and comparative research, an attempt will be made to systematise the complex concept of foreign influence; then, it will be proposed to isolate and define the most recent field of malign foreign influence through the construction of a conceptual matrix that identifies four main arenas of information dissemination. Finally, in the concluding part, a possible research agenda on the topic will be outlined


  • disinformation
  • malign foreign influence
  • hybrid threats
  • malign information
  • non-state actors


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