Report: Prominent Public Figures Are Major Source of Misinformation about Coronavirus on Social Media

Celebrities and Politicians are the main sources of spreading misleading information about the COVID-19 on social media, claims a new report from the Reuters Institute. Though they have a little part in a discussion when compared to whole conversations going on.

Around 225 posts that were shared on social media from January to March were analyzed by The Reuters team and the fact-checkers marked them either false or misleading. After this, researchers found out what kind of misinformation is spreading, how it is spreading on social platforms and how the social platforms are dealing with it.

The data showed ‘reconfigured’ or the twisted truths are the most common types of misleading information about COVID-19 on social networks. Like there is one common medical advice, a half-truth, is circulating online. It advises to wash hands and also claims heat from sun can kill the virus. According to this information, 26-27 degrees Celsius temperature is enough to kill the virus, though scientifically it’s not proven yet.

Manipulated images and the reconfigured content also included images that are labeled wrongly. It was expected that in recent times there would be much-altered content, but to surprise, no deep fakes were found out in the samples collected by the Reuters team.

Of all the misleading information shared on social media, 59% of it is reconfigured information. Information that is entirely fictitious accounts for 38% of the posts. This could have adverse consequences and it could be the reason that leading platforms are taking action against such posts.

Report: Prominent Influencers Are Major Source of Misinformation about Coronavirus on Social Media

The question is how the misleading or the reconfigured information spreads on social media? According to the research team, influencers or celebrities are the main sources of validating and spreading the fake news.

Many celebrities shared the deceptive theories and misleading information like the actor Woody Harrelson shared a post on social media which claimed that 5G have played a significant role in spreading the COVID-19.

As the public figures share any message, the impact is far more than a regular user. As a result, it was found out that 69% of the engagement on misleading reports is from the high-profile users’ posts. Though only 20% of the public figures shared fake information.

This shows the power of celebrities, politicians and other public figures. To deal with it, health authorities could play a major role in guiding the influencing people and stop them from endorsing support for baseless theories.

When it comes to platforms, they have responded to the majority of the misleading posts that were analyzed by the Reuters’ team. However, on Twitter, 59% of the misleading posts still do not have any clear warning labels on them, whereas on Facebook the number of misleading active posts is 27% and on YouTube, it is 24%.

The researchers’ team suggested the situation can be improved if social platforms take strict actions against misleading posts. Many news media has been rising against the lies from the politicians just like recently Facebook, Twitter and YouTube removed Brazilian President’s posts that contained misinformation about Coronavirus.

Notably, there has been a continuous debate from both Facebook and Twitter about censoring political speech. Facebook has already said it will not fact-check political neither act as a referee but according to Reuters, a strong stance from social platforms could have a huge lasting effect to control the spread of misinformation.

Read next: Facebook Is Helping People Obtain Correct Information About Coronavirus By Adding New Features To Health Groups Across The Platform

Featured photo: Freepik
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