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Giving Compass' Take:
• Kaleigh Rogers explains how and why misinformation runs rampant through people's understanding of the coronavirus pandemic.
• How might misinformation about the pandemic act as a roadblock on the path to recovery? How can you work to address the misinformation problem?
• Learn more about how to combat the dastardly effects of misinformation during the coronavirus.
In the midst of battling a global health emergency, we find ourselves fending off another scourge of conspiracy theories and misinformation.
Measuring exactly how much bunk is out there to begin with is a challenge, in part because so much misinformation is shared through social media, said Gordon Pennycook, a behavioral psychologist at Canada’s University of Regina who studies fake news. It’s possible to measure, for instance, the number of tweets linking to specific fake news websites, but no way to see every instance a particular false claim is made on Facebook, especially when those claims can take many forms, including memes, Pennycook said.
An easier measure is how many people recall having seen fake news. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in the second week of March found that 48 percent of Americans reported seeing at least some made-up news about the outbreak. Only 20 percent of respondents said they had seen no fake news; the remaining 32 percent said they had seen “not much.”
Many Americans are also having difficulty discerning accurate information. For example, in the Cornell paper, when shown headlines about treatments for COVID-19, 40 percent of respondents, on average, judged real headlines in this category to be true, and the remaining 60 percent were “almost evenly divided between identifying the headline as false or acknowledging that they were unsure.”
One of the reasons we might be seeing more people falling for misinformation is the knowledge gap that comes with an emerging disease like COVID-19. There’s a lot we still don’t know about this virus, and that lack of understanding can create a vacuum that is all too easily filled by conspiracy theories and misinformation.
Read the full article about misinformation during the pandemic by Kaleigh Rogers at FiveThirtyEight.