Heavy damage from one of the 2020 earthquakes that hit northern Croatia, Source: Pixabay

How fake news impacted Croatia when it faced both Covid-19 and earthquakes

How fake news impacted Croatia when it faced both Covid-19 and earthquakes

When two disasters collide, the result can be a perfect storm of disinformation

During the hardest period of the Covid-19 pandemic, Croatia was hit with two major earthquakes. The first one happened on 22 March 2020, and the other one on 29 December 2020. These catastrophic situations coincided with a public health pandemic, which itself was something new for the whole world.

The result was the creation of a “perfect storm” of troubles. The disasters in turn caused considerable public panic, which was fueled by the simultaneous need to learn new information and get quick and helpful guidance from the media sources and the apparent incompetence of the authorities to deal with the crises.

The above critical conditions also proved fertile ground for the spread of misinformation and disinformation, which in turn intensified fear in society. Information, often unverified and dubious, was mostly spread through social media, as people did not have trust in the media and in experts.

Examples were misleading info about earthquake predictions or what to do in the case of an earthquake. In reality, seismic activity cannot be forecasted like the weather.

The potential dangers of disinformation

Likewise, there was a lot of misplaced and amateurish advice about what to do in the moment of an earthquake, whether to stay in or run out and people didn’t know what the truth was. In addition to that, Croatia was in a state of quarantine, so many people felt scared that they and their families would get sick if they got out in public places while seeking to save themselves from an earthquake.

After the second earthquake (in December 2020) a lot of misinformation spread in the field of charity work. All over social media, there were appeals to help those who lost their homes. Indeed, many people needed food, water, electricity, clothes, hygiene supplies and more, but that also gave the chance for opportunist scams to spread on social media. The result was the theft of donated funds or their misdirection due to large quantities being directed to the wrong places.

Sensationalist media reporting did not help in this case, debating between what was more dangerous, the virus or the earthquake.

It is very important that in times of crisis, the media doesn’t cover topics in a way that increases fear and panic in society. Catastrophic events are traumatic enough in themselves, let alone when they are unethically reported. It is important, however, for the public to be media literate as well and to have the knowledge to distinguish authoritative sources from dubious ones, as this can sometimes mean a difference between life and death.

This article is part of Read Twice – an EU-funded project, coordinated by Euro Advance Association that targets young people and aims to counter disinformation and fake news by enhancing their skills to assess critically information, identify vicious and harmful media content and distinguish between facts and opinions, thus improving their media literacy competences.

The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union nor of TheMayor.EU



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU