COVID-19 Misinformation Newsletter 18 January 2022
18 January 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 Indian government ordered Twitter to remove 52 tweets, many of which were critical of the government’s Covid-19 policies. Some of the tweets contained false information about Covid-19, but the majority of them took a stance against the BJP-led government.
2. A report from Reuters described how Russia and China produce and spread disinformation to undermine trust in Western vaccines. The two countries have been publishing junk health news with questionable editorial standards on vaccine safety while promoting Russia and Chinese vaccines.
3. The US Senate held a hearing titled “Algorithms and Amplification: How Social Media Platforms’ Design Choices Shape our Discourse and Our Minds” with presentations from social media companies and experts. According to The Verge, lawmakers did not appear to be close to finding solutions to the platforms amplifying misinformation.
4. A study from Indiana University finds connections between online misinformation and vaccination uptake in the United States. The study demonstrates that daily vaccination rates are low in areas where levels of misinformation circulation are high.
5. Survey data from 40 countries finds a strong association between perceived believability of misinformation and vaccination hesitancy. The study also finds that only half of online users exposed to rumours have seen the efforts of fact-checking to correct the false information.
6. A survey of US participants studied how anxiety causes people to believe in and share misinformation. This anxiety is especially heightened for people who self-identify as Republicans, who are more likely to believe and share false claims.
7. Following conservative media is associated with holding conspiracy beliefs, according to research from the US. The study points to the need for commentators and journalists on conservative media to report verifiable information about the pandemic.
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