War in Ukraine and Disinformation Newsletter 16 August
16 August 2022
The COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter is prepared by the staff of the Programme on Democracy and Technology (DemTech) at Oxford University. We summarise the latest independent research and high-quality news reporting on the production and consumption of computational propaganda, fake news, and campaigns to manipulate public understanding of the health crisis.
1. In the US, preparations to reopen society, such as contact-tracing efforts, have become the focus of significant suspicion within some social media communities, ISD reports. Videos containing disinformation and conspiracy theories relevant to contact tracing are receiving more than 300,000 views each on YouTube. This has contributed to a rapid increase in conspiratorial narratives.
2. False claims that COVID-19 vaccines ‘contain microchips’ or ‘are magnetically charged’ continue to circulate on social media, First Draft has found. These claims are maintained by users who produce videos posted on platforms like TikTok or BitChute.
3. Research by the Brookings Institution demonstrates that commerce platforms such as Amazon, Etsy and eBay have struggled to remove merchandise offered by promoters of anti-vaccination and conspiracy narratives. Researchers recommend that in order to address this issue a greater emphasis should be put on the broader ecosystem in which e-commerce systems operate
4. A study published in Nature compares the diffusion of questionable and reliable information about COVID-19 on five different platforms. It argues that information diffusion is driven by the design and affordance of a specific platform or/and by the interaction patterns of users engaged with the topic.
5. Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research publishes a review of how artificial intelligence can be applied to study and address digital misinformation related to COVID-19. The authors note that the body of literature discussing health misinformation has grown rapidly. However, there is a need to critically assess many scientific articles circulating online, particularly because some of them might not have been peer-reviewed.
6. A publication in Misinformation Review suggests a menu of ‘accuracy prompts’ that help to increase sharing of quality news online about COVID-19 and decrease sharing of false information. For instance, asking participants to judge the accuracy of a non-COVID-19 related headline is an effective way to prompt sharing quality news.
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