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  • COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter 24 August 2021

    24 August 2021

    COVID-19 Newsletter

    Covid misinformation top performing Facebook post and advertisers spending billions on misinformation websites

    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 and campaigns to manipulate public understanding of the health crisis. The newsletter is edited by Dr Aliaksandr Herasimenka. It is two-minute read.

    News Briefing

    Major brands might unintentionally spend up to $2.6 billion annually in advertising on misinformation websites, including those that promote “false health claims, anti-vaccine myths [and] election misinformation.” An analysis of advertising data from Newsguard and Comscore claims that “for every $2.16 in digital ad revenue sent to legitimate newspapers, U.S. advertisers are sending $1 to misinformation websites.”

    Facebook publicly released a report revealing that the “top performing” post on its platform from the first three months of 2021 was an article containing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. The post contained a news article with a headline suggesting that the coronavirus vaccine was to blame for the death of a Florida doctor. A report from the Covid States Project found that readers of Facebook news were less likely to get vaccinated than Fox News audiences in the US.

    The Guardian reports that hundreds of “anti-vaccine protesters stormed what they thought was a major BBC building” in London earlier in August 2021, expressing anger about the BBC’s promotion of coronavirus vaccines. It appeared that the building mostly hosts the broadcaster ITV.

    Academic Research

    A paper published in JMIR Infodemiology presents an approach to identifying and analysing infodemic signals, particularly information voids. The researchers explain that this approach helped inform policymakers about confusion, harmful narratives and key questions from conversations amongst the general public about COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

    A review study published in Frontiers in Public Research examined what might influence COVID-19 vaccine acceptance. Beyond demographic characteristics such as gender and education, vaccine efficacy, influenza vaccination, trust in authorities, risk perception of COVID-19 and vaccine safety are named among those factors that affected vaccine acceptance.

    A paper published in Political Psychology finds that social identification consistently predicts health behaviours such as physical distance and hand hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers defined social identification as “the degree to which a person self-defines in terms of, is emotionally attached to, and positively evaluates, a social/group membership.”

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