NEWS9 April 2020

Covid-19 misinformation seen by half of adults

Covid-19 Media News UK

UK – Almost half ( 46%) of UK online adults came across false or misleading information about Covid-19 in the first week of the UK’s lockdown, according to Ofcom research.

Coronavirus covid myth misinformation_crop

The study also found that young people are more likely to have seen false information – 58% of respondents aged 18-24 had come across misleading claims.

Among those who had come across misinformation on the virus, two-thirds ( 66%) said they are seeing it every day.

The most common piece of false information is the claim that drinking water can flush out the infection, and this had been seen by over a third ( 35%) of respondents. The claim that it can be alleviated by gargling with saltwater had been seen by 24% of respondents.

Ofcom is surveying 2,000 UK online adults every week. The majority of those surveyed ( 55%) said they are ignoring false claims about Covid-19, while 40% find it hard to know what is true or false – again, this is higher for 18-24 year-olds ( 52%).

When it comes to staying informed on the pandemic, almost all respondents ( 99%) are obtaining news and information on the virus ‘at least once a day’ and almost a quarter ( 24%) claim to be doing so 20 or more times a day. However, 22% said they are trying to avoid news about the outbreak.  

The most likely sources of information are the BBC’s TV, radio and online services ( 82%), other broadcasters ( 56%) and official sources such as the World Health Organisation, NHS and government ( 52%), according to the research.

Yih-Choung Teh, group director for strategy and research, Ofcom, said: “People are turning to public authorities and traditional broadcasters for trusted information about Covid-19, and the vast majority say they’re closely following official advice.

“With so much false information circulating online, it’s never been more important that people can cut through the confusion and find accurate, trustworthy and credible sources of news and advice.”

The panel is weighted to ensure that the findings are representative of the views and habits of the UK online population but they do not reflect those of the 13% who are not online. Fieldwork for this survey took place between 27-29th March 2020, asking respondents about their habits and attitudes of the previous seven days. This period coincided with the ‘stay at home’ measures announced on 23rd March.