COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter 15 February 2022
15 February 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 high-quality news reporting and independent research on the production and consumption of computational propaganda, fake news, and campaigns to manipulate public understanding of the health crisis.
1. The UK government publishes a draft of the Online Safety Bill, which sets out requirements for social media platforms to take down content such as misinformation, abuse or hate speech. Under the draft legislation, platforms must remove harmful content quickly to avoid fines up to 10% of global turnover.
2. Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock introduces a new Bill to prevent fact-checkers from challenging politicians on unsubstantiated claims. The Fact Checker Registration Act would require fact-checkers to register themselves with the state of Michigan and provide themselves with insurance in the form of $1 million fidelity bonds.
3. First Draft examines vaccine misinformation in the comments of Facebook posts. One in five comments on the Facebook posts they analysed contained misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines or the pandemic itself.
4. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue investigates the functioning of the recommendation system in Amazon’s marketplace. They find that the platform inadvertently promotes conspiracy theories, misinformation and extreme views to customers searching for items such as fitness equipment or gardening tools.
5. A study by Mosleh et al. using field experiments on Twitter looks at the impact of debunking misinformation in conversation threads. They find that being corrected in Twitter comments has no effect on a user’s own tweets but decreases the quality and increases toxicity of later retweets.
6. A review essay from the Vaccine Confidence Project at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine goes through the reasons why debunking isn’t enough to change people’s minds about vaccines. They state that one of the strongest drivers for vaccine hesitancy is distrust in the individuals and institutions that discover, develop and deliver vaccines.
7. A review essay in the American Journal of Public Health examines the principles of effective communication about COVID-19 vaccines. They suggest large-scale content removal undertaken by social media platforms could backfire, as the impression of “censorship” increases people’s interest in vaccine sceptical content.
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