1 October 2020   Leave a comment

Researchers associated with Cornell University have studied the sources of misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. The study was remarkable in the number of sources that were studied. According to the researchers:

“The study was performed using Cision Media’s Next Generation Communications Cloud platform, which aggregates content from 7 million-plus sources around the world. This database was queried with an English-language search string for misinformation topics in the context of COVID-19, using an iterative cycle of different keywords.

The study evaluated over 38 million pieces of content published by English-language, traditional media worldwide between January 1 and May 26, 2020.

It analyzed engagement with traditional media stories on social channels.

The study identified over 1.1 million news articles (2.9% of the whole COVID-19 conversation) that disseminated, amplified or reported on misinformation related to the pandemic.

The major findings of the study identify US President Trump as the source of almost 38% of all misinformation references.

  • “It is apparent from the data that mentions of President Trump within the context of COVID-19 misinformation comprise by far the largest single component of the “infodemic.” Trump mentions comprised 37.9% of the overall “infodemic.”
  • • However, a substantial proportion of other topics was also driven by the president’s comments, so some overlap can be expected. This strengthens the conclusion that the President of the United States was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation “infodemic.”
  • • Only 16.4% of the misinformation conversation was “fact-checking” in nature, suggesting that the majority of COVID misinformation is conveyed by the media without question or correction.

The study identified 11 topics that were identified as misleading or false:

1 Miracle Cures
2 New World Order / Deep State
3 Democratic Party Hoax
4 Wuhan Lab / Bioweapon
5 Bill Gates
6 5G
7 Antisemitic Conspiracies
8 Population Control
9 Dr. Anthony Fauci
10 Plandemic
11 Bat Soup

I have not myself heard the rumors about bat soup but I likely skipped over those articles in self-defense. But the findings are rather extraordinary, testifying to the power of the “bully pulpit“, a phrase first used by US President Theodore Roosevelt. But the dissemination of false or misleading information in a pandemic is intrinsically dangerous. Writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Herbert Lin and Harold Trinkunas point out all the problems engendered by false information. If one wishes to find reputable information about COVID-19, I would strongly recommend going to the website on the virus maintained by the Johns Hopkins University.

Posted October 1, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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