FEATURE3 June 2021

Lie detector: Covid-19 and misinformation

x All content on Research Live and in Impact magazine is editorially independent from sponsorship or other commercial arrangements.
Find out more about advertising and sponsorship.

Covid-19 Features Impact

Misinformation has increased during the pandemic, and social network analysis suggests that, in the case of Covid-19 conspiracies, ordinary people – rather than bots – are the key drivers. By Wasim Ahmed.

Over the past few months, there have been a host of Covid-19 conspiracy theories shared across social media. In some quarters, this has been described as a ‘tsunami’ of misinformation.

In the early phase of the pandemic, wild theories suggested that American business magnate Bill Gates had intentionally caused Covid-19 to implant digital microchips that could track and control people. There have also been conspiracies around vaccines altering human DNA.

Other theories have claimed that technology, such as 5G, is the cause of the virus, while others have argued that the entire pandemic is a hoax and encouraged social media users to film their local hospitals to prove they are empty. Our research focused on the 5G and #FilmYourHospital conspiracy theories, and we published two papers in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in 2020.

It has become really important to have access to tools and methods to rapidly analyse social media data to detect drivers of misinformation. This is because ...