The Infodemic

The Infodemic
How Censorship and Lies Made the World Sicker and Less Free

How censorship turned a terrible disease into an assault on rights

As COVID-19 spread around the world, so did government censorship. The Infodemic lays bare not just old-fashioned censorship, but also the mechanisms of a modern brand of “censorship through noise,” which moves beyond traditional means of state control—such as the jailing of critics and restricting the flow of information—to open the floodgates of misinformation, overwhelming the public with lies and half-truths.

Joel Simon and Robert Mahoney, who have traveled the world for many years defending press freedom and journalists’ rights as the directors of the Committee to Protect Journalists, chart the onslaught of COVID censorship beginning in China, through Iran, Russia, India, Egypt, Brazil, and inside the Trump White House. Increased surveillance in the name of public health, the collapse of public trust in institutions, and the demise of local news reporting all contributed to help governments hijack the flow of information and usurp power. Full of vivid characters and behind the scenes accounts, The Infodemic shows how under the cover of a global pandemic, governments have undermined freedom and taken control—this new political order may be the legacy of the disease.

Read CGR Director Nicholas Lemann’s Letter to the Reader

The Infodemic
  • ISBN: 9781735913681
  • Price: $16.00
  • E-book ISBN: 9781735913698
  • On Sale: April 26, 2022
  • Pages: 192


“At a moment when censorship and its close sibling, weaponized misinformation, are shaking the foundations of democracies around the world, Joel Simon and Robert Mahoney bring us an important dissection of that crisis—and gripping stories from its frontlines. The Infodemic is an essential record.” —Ronan Farrow, author of War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence

“Timely. Urgent. Necessary.” —Dan Rather

“Two advocates for journalists’ rights reveal the severe blows to free expression and democracy inflicted by world leaders’ repressive actions during the pandemic.... A sobering account of how governments have used Covid-19 as a pretext for limiting freedom.” Kirkus Reviews

“Vaccines save lives, but the damage to democracy, human rights and press freedom exacted by politicians who shamelessly exploit a global health emergency may outlive COVID itself. In this gripping and impressively reported book, two great champions of press freedom vividly recount that under-reported side of the pandemic. The Infodemic circles the globe narrating the lies, misinformation and shameless exploitation to advance their own careers by populists and autocrats. In these pages, Simon and Mahoney challenge us to begin the work of reversing the damage from extreme surveillance and restrictions to freedom once the greatest danger has passed.” —Kati Marton, author of The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel

The Infodemic is essential reading for anyone who worries about the way authoritarian leaders are using the COVID pandemic to erode further democracy around the world. Joel Simon and Robert Mahoney have been on the frontlines of the war for free press for years. This book shows us how autocrats are trying to silence independent voices when they are most needed, in the middle of an epidemic of a deadly disease and lethal disinformation.” —Patricia Campos Mello, columnist for Folha de S. Paulo and author of A Maquina do Ódio (The Hate Machine)

“Joel Simon and Rob Mahoney show how authoritarians and ‘populists’ in every region of the world have taken advantage of the pandemic to poison our politics, our access to accurate information, our health and our rights. The Infodemic should be read by everyone with an interest in confronting the global threats to democracy, human rights and public health.”
—David Kaye, clinical professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, author of Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet


How the pandemic fueled an ‘infodemic’ — Amanpour

How governments helped fuel an infodemic during Covid — Morning Joe

How China’s Response to COVID-19 Set the Stage for a Worldwide Wave of Censorship — New Yorker

New Book Examines Pandemic’s Toll on Global Freedom — Ethnic Media Services

How the Infodemic Is Making the World Sicker and Less Free — Keen On podcast

How Misinformation Helped Fuel a Public Health Crisis — NiemanReports

Journalist Joel Simon on the ‘Infodemic’ of lies making people sicker — The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman

How COVID-19 Infected Democracy — Columbia Magazine

Joel Simon and Robert Mahoney with Katy Sewall — In the Moment Podcast

The Pandemic Brought on Government Lies and Censorship — America Trends podcast

The Infodemic: How Censorship Turned COVID-19 into an Assault on Truth — Columbia University virtual event (video)

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The Infodemic

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About the author

Joel Simon is a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School and formerly the Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Before joining CPJ, he worked as a journalist in Latin America and California. He is the author of three books, including We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Hostages, Kidnapping, and Ransom, also from Columbia Global Reports. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.  @JoelSimonSays

Robert Mahoney is Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. He was a Reuters correspondent with postings in Southeast Asia, West Africa, India, Israel, France and Germany. This is Robert’s first book. He lives in New York City.  @RobertMMahoney