Why misinformation flourished during the pandemic

Why misinformation flourished during the pandemic
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Human behavior in nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-022-01353-3″ width=”800″ height=”462″/>

Temporal behavior of research and news fractions from all sources in Italy. Searches (red, left y-axis) and News from All Sources (blue, right y-axis) for the keyword “coronavirus” were recorded from December 6, 2019 to August 31, 2020. Searches are reported as a percentage of maximum observed in the monitored period. News from all sources is represented by the daily fraction of articles containing at least three keyword occurrences (see Methods). The enhanced model (black line) leverages breaking news from all sources and research, as well as current research, to infer news dynamics from all sources. Credit: Nature Human behavior (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-022-01353-3

A small team of researchers from Sony Computer Laboratories in France explored why misinformation seemed to thrive during the global pandemic. In their article published in the journal natural human behavior, Pietro Gravino, Giulio Prevedello, Martina Galletti and Vittorio Loretom looked at the supply and demand for information about COVID-19 during the pandemic and compared how the media reacted.

One of the most remarkable features of the world pandemic is the seemingly relentless flow of misinformation attributed not just to the virus and those infected, but to how the medical community responded to the threat. From ridiculous claims about supposed cures to baseless claims by anti-vaxxers, misinformation has flourished. In this new effort, the researchers wondered why this was happening and they looked at the sources of newsboth trusted and untrusted, as participants in a supply and demand information ecosystem.

The job was to look at the problem in Italy – they started by getting print stories from Italian media sources into a public database. They also retrieved information from another database of articles published by fact-checking groups, which helped them separate source of information by their reliability. All of these items made up the supply side of the system.

To learn more about demand for information about the pandemic, researchers looked at Google’s search trends. To compare the supply and demand for information, the researchers looked at searches made by people looking for information and compared them to the responses available from information sources. The researchers found that news sources identified as generally unreliable tended to respond more quickly to new information than more traditional and trusted sources.

Researchers were unable to determine why untrusted news sources were able to react more quickly, but suggest the end result was greater visibility for untrusted sources, leading to misinformation. generalized gaining ground and ultimately accepted.

Does the presentation of credibility labels of journalistic sources affect news consumption? New study finds limited effects

More information:
Pietro Gravino et al, The supply and demand of information during COVID-19 and the evaluation of the production of dubious sources, Nature Human behavior (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-022-01353-3

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