Research suggests people using social media as the primary source of information are more prone to believe in misinformation about COVID-19

The latest research from the U.K. claims that people using social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook for information related to the coronavirus are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories about it.

Published on Thursday, the study was conducted by Ipsos Mori for the King’s College. It provides an understanding of how some misapprehensions around Covid-19 have gained popularity and where they originate from.

In late May, for example, 30% of Britons surveyed believed that the coronavirus was most probably created in laboratories while 25% did so at the start of April. 8% of them thought that the symptoms of COVID-19 seemed to be linked with 5G radiation. A small percentage of people believe that there is no concrete proof that the coronavirus exists. These claims have been disregarded by scientists, however.

The study also suggests that 60% of people who believe that the coronavirus is linked to 5G, primarily use YouTube for information, compared with 14% of those who think this belief is wrong. Meanwhile, 56% of people who use Facebook for information think that there is no proof of the existence of COVID-19. This is almost three times greater than the 20% of people who believe otherwise.

False credence surrounding 5G has led to some real-world outcomes. In Europe, dozens of telephone masts were burned down and telecom engineers have been harassed on the streets by people who claim that 5G is somehow linked with the disease. Authorities have called upon the social media platforms to do more to stop the spread of misinformation about the pandemic.

One of the most common misconceptions that people have around 5G is that it weakens people’s immune systems, making them more vulnerable to the virus. Such fears regarding wireless networks aren’t new however, and scientists have shut down the suggestion that 5G poses any risks to human health.

Another research, published in the medical journal of Psychological Medicine finds a strong correlation between false beliefs about COVID-19 and social media usage. The results were based on three surveys, conducted online from May 20th to May 22nd, involved 2,254 interviews with U.K. residents aged from 16-75.

It found that people who use social media to find information about the virus have more likely broken lockdown rules enforced in order to contain the disease. 58% of people who used YouTube for information, went outside with COVID-19 symptoms, which is higher than 16% who have not. It also found that 37% of people who used Facebook as the primary source, had people visit them, compared to 23% of those who have not.

Daniel Allington, a lecturer in social and cultural artificial intelligence at King’s College London, said that it’s not surprising due to so much information on social media being misleading and false.

He added that good-quality information about COVID-19 is more important than ever now that some of the lockdown regulations are being relaxed and people have to make more decisions regarding what is safe or unsafe, saying that it is time for us to think about how we can address this very real problem.

Both YouTube and Facebook claim to remove certain types of misinformation about the coronavirus, for example, false treatments and suggestions like it is linked to 5G technology. Both platforms are also working with major health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) and Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to display information about the virus as accurately as possible. The spokespersons from both platforms came up and confirmed that they were removing content that spreads misinformation amongst people.

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