Unveiling the Web of Deception: An Analysis of Misleading Information on COVID-19 in Online Platforms

Saeideh Valizadeh-Haghi, Amirreza Kalantari, Shahabedin Rahmatizadeh, Yasser Khazaal
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Abstract

Introduction: Rumors published during the COVID-19 pandemic have damaged people's understanding of a particular medical condition, as well as the conditions necessary for crisis management. The present study aimed to explore the extent of misinformation, including Fake, False, and Misleading news on COVID-19, which is available on the Internet.

Material and Methods: Data were obtained from "Poynter," a fact-checking database that unites fake news and debunks or fact-checks them with supporting articles from fact-checkers in more than 70 countries. The retrieved claims were classified into five categories of myths presented on the WHO website. To have a better understanding of the entity of claims, the most common keywords presented in the retrieved news title were extracted using Python3 programming language.

Results: The findings showed that False and Misleading news retrieved in 2020 was primarily related to the transmission category, while in 2021, most of the False and Misleading claims were related to the prevention category. The most repetitive keyword was related to "COVID-19 vaccine”. Also, most of the misinformation has been distributed through social media. Most misinformation has been published through the Facebook social network (59%).

Conclusion: Social networks have an elevated share in disseminating misinformation, and Facebook was recognized as the most popular one in terms of disseminating such news. The WHO and health-related institutions should prevent the spread of this news by informing and using the latest technologies and trying to reduce this information to pave the way for a pandemic to move towards control or possible termination.

Keywords

Misinformation; COVID-19; Social Media; Consumer Health Information; Public Health Informatics; Digital Health;

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.30699/fhi.v13i0.603

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