Factsheet Identifies Main Types, Sources, and Claims of COVID-19 Misinformation

Cristina Tardáguila, Associate Director of the International Fact-checking Network (IFCN), has called COVID–19 ‘the biggest challenge fact-checkers have ever faced.’  – RISJ COVID-19 Misinformation Factsheet, General Overview

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ), University of Oxford has published an interesting factsheet that identifies some of the main types, sources, and claims of COVID-19 misinformation. They analyzed “a sample of 225 pieces of misinformation rated false or misleading by fact-checkers and published in English between January and the end of March 2020, drawn from a collection of fact-checks maintained by First Draft.” Here are highlights of the key findings (directly quoted):

  • In terms of scale, independent fact-checkers have moved quickly to respond to the growing amount of misinformation around COVID-19; the number of English-language fact-checks rose more than 900% from January to March.
  • In terms of formats, most (59%) of the misinformation in [their] sample involves various forms of reconfiguration, where existing and often true information is spun, twisted, recontextualised, or reworked.
  • In terms of sources, top-down misinformation from politicians, celebrities, and other prominent public figures made up just 20% of the claims in [their] sample but accounted for 69% of total social media engagement.
  • In terms of claims, misleading or false claims about the actions or policies of public authorities, including government and international bodies like the WHO or the UN, are the single largest category of claims identified, appearing in 39% of [their] sample.
  • On Twitter, 59% of posts rated as false in [their] sample by fact-checkers remain up. On YouTube, 27% remain up, and on Facebook, 24% of false-rated content in [their] sample remains up without warning labels.

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