| 23.11.2021

Misinformation about COVID-19 spreads faster than fact-checking content

The amount of misinformation related to COVID-19 is disproportionately high compared to content produced by fact-checkers on Twitter. Misinformation also lives longer online. This is shown by results from an ongoing study on online misinformation about COVID-19.

The study is a part of a project led by Hanken School of Economics aiming at improving the effectiveness of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The results suggest fact-checking organisations are better than previously thought at responding to misinformation related to the pandemic. Nevertheless, it seems that fact-checking may not be as successful as expected in reducing misinformation spread on Twitter. The amount of misinformation on COVID-19 spread on Twitter around 3.5 times more than content trying to correct misinformation.

– It is important fact-checkers make their content more attractive to social media users and thereby more sharable. Especially misinformation content related to conspiracy theories or the causes of the virus are also more often published again after some time. Fact-checkers should accordingly be more ready to republish and boost the spread of fact-checking content. Social media platforms also could take a bigger responsibility and identify misinformation faster, says Dr Grégoire Burel, one of the researchers in the project.

The study is based on the analysis of over 350,000 tweets mentioning misinforming or fact-checking URLs. The accounts share either misinformation or fact-checking content on COVID-19, mostly in English.

– While these results may seem disheartening, we know from extensive previous research that correcting misinformation about COVID-19 may help. Access to correct information on COVID-19 makes people better follow government guidelines on social distancing, recommendations on hygiene, and it also improves vaccine acceptance. Understanding how we can correct misinformation online can help us save lives, says Dr Burel.

The study is a part of the HERoS-project (Health Emergency Response in Interconnected Systems) led by Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki. The overall objective of HERoS is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

For more information please contact:

Dr Grégoire Burel, researcher at the Knowledge Media Institute (Open University, United Kingdom), gregoire.burel@open.ac.uk. Burel is in Helsinki and available for interviews 23-24.11.2021.

Gyöngyi Kovács, professor in humanitarian logistics at Hanken School of Economics and leader of the HERoS-project, e-mail gyongyi.kovacs@hanken.fi, phone +358-40-352 1241.

The articles with all results can be found here:
Demographics and topics impact on the co-spread of COVID-19 misinformation and fact-checks on Twitter
Co-Spread of Misinformation and Fact-Checking Content during the Covid-19 Pandemic