Saturday, October 3, 2020

COVID-19 Misinformation: First Large Study Plus an Unsurprising Result

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and has since added another term to our lexicon that is related: a "infodemic" of misinformation.

Researchers Sarah Evanega, Mark Lynas, both at Cornell University (Ithaca) and researchers Jordan Adams and Karinne Smoleyak, both of Cision Global Insights (Ann Arbor) just published a paper that "identifies and analyzes the most prominent topis of COVID-related misinformation that emerged in traditional media between January 1 and May 26, 2020 based on a total sample of over 38 million articles published in English-language media around the world."

Their major finding is not likely to surprise most people and it is well ahead of other topics the researchers grouped together in categories. Take a guess at the conclusion the researchers reached.

"We conclude that the president of the United States was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation "'infodemic'." President Donald Trump "mentions comprised 37.9% of the overall misinformation conversation...suggesting that the majority of COVID misinformation is conveyed by the media without question or correction."

The quotes were taken from the abstract of their paper which may be read in this PDF file (13 pp).

There is considerable reporting in the media about this and I link you to only one written by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland, The New York Times. This article is part of their COVID-19 series which can be accessed free daily.  

Postscript: An Unsurprising Result. I read this study the day before we learned that the President and his wife with several others have COVID-19. He has been hospitalized at Walter Reed. Prresident Trump has routinely mocked health advice and refused to adhere to public health guidelines. Even worse he has not encouraged citizens to follow them. Mr. Trump even mocked his challenger, Joe Biden, during this week's debate for his wearing a mask.

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