Who knows?: Fake news and COVID-19

Website by Alyssa Amidei

Visit Alyssa’s website project here

As social media becomes increasingly popular, false information becomes increasingly easy to spread. This was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As everyone rushed to share their opinions, the scientific evidence was drowned out by louder yet less knowledgeable individuals. On my website, I focus on the research question: how has fake news surrounding COVID-19 affected COVID safety?

This overabundance of information about COVID-19, including that which is misleading or completely inaccurate, has been referred to as an “infodemic” by many relevant articles. Fittingly, there are an overwhelming number of journal articles reporting research on this topic. Two articles stood out as providing excellent foundational information about the “infodemic” (Laato et al., 2020; “The COVID-19 Infodemic,” 2020). Two other articles provided more in-depth, advanced information on the different types of misinformation spread and how those each affect communities (Islam et al., 2020) and on how to avoid information overload and misinformation (Azam Rathore & Farooq, 2020). Finally, two more articles supplied information specific to how relationships are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and infodemic (Larson, 2020; The Coronavirus Pandemic Can Destroy Relationships, 2020).

All of the results found in these articles supports the results from my own research. My ethnographic research was focused on the community members from my home area of Starke County, Indiana. I first distributed a survey to capture opinions of this population and interviewed some family members for their thoughts. Then, I sifted through Facebook to find posts made by individuals in this area that were sharing factually incorrect or misleading information.

My project builds on the available research because it is focused on a new location that has not been included in previous works. It confirms and reinforces their findings that state the COVID-19 “infodemic” leads to distrust in government and news sources, harms relationships, and can lead to dangerous behaviors such as ignoring precautionary guidelines. I am arguing that social media platforms and individuals must work together and share responsibility in making sure that accurate information is being spread, whether about COVID-19 or otherwise. Facebook has already begun to add “fact check” systems to their website, but individuals are somehow still believing these articles and sharing them, so more changes must be made for the sake of public health.

Bibliography

Azam Rathore, F., & Farooq, F. (2020, May). Information Overload and Infodemic in the COVID-19 Pandemic. https://www.ejmanager.com/mnstemps/33/33-1589042353.pdf?t=1619269217

Islam, M. S., Sarkar, T., Khan, S. H., Kamal, A.-H. M., Hasan, S. M. M., Kabir, A., Yeasmin, D., Islam, M. A., Chowdhury, K. I. A., Anwar, K. S., Chughtai, A. A., & Seale, H. (2020). COVID-19–Related Infodemic and Its Impact on Public Health: A Global Social Media Analysis. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 103(4), 1621–1629. https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.20-0812

Laato, S., Islam, A. K. M. N., Islam, M. N., & Whelan, E. (2020). What drives unverified information sharing and cyberchondria during the COVID-19 pandemic? European Journal of Information Systems, 29(3), 288–305. https://doi.org/10.1080/0960085X.2020.1770632

Larson, H. J. (2020). A call to arms: Helping family, friends and communities navigate the COVID-19 infodemic. Nature Reviews Immunology, 20(8), 449–450. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41577-020-0380-8

The coronavirus pandemic can destroy relationships. (2020, August 8). The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/stress-from-the-pandemic-can-destroy-relationships-with-friends–even-families/2020/08/07/d95216f4-d665-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html

The COVID-19 infodemic. (2020). The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 20(8), 875–875. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30565-X

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