Prevalence of misinformation and factchecks on the COVID-19 pandemic in 35 countries: Observational infodemiology study

Meeyoung Cha, Chiyoung Cha, Karandeep Singh, Gabriel Lima, Yong Yeol Ahn, Juhi Kulshrestha, Onur Varol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by an infodemic, in which a plethora of false information has been rapidly disseminated online, leading to serious harm worldwide. Objective: This study aims to analyze the prevalence of common misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We conducted an online survey via social media platforms and a survey company to determine whether respondents have been exposed to a broad set of false claims and fact-checked information on the disease. Results: We obtained more than 41,000 responses from 1257 participants in 85 countries, but for our analysis, we only included responses from 35 countries that had at least 15 respondents. We identified a strong negative correlation between a country’s Gross Domestic Product per-capita and the prevalence of misinformation, with poorer countries having a higher prevalence of misinformation (Spearman ρ=–0.72; P<.001). We also found that fact checks spread to a lesser degree than their respective false claims, following a sublinear trend (β=.64). Conclusions: Our results imply that the potential harm of misinformation could be more substantial for low-income countries than high-income countries. Countries with poor infrastructures might have to combat not only the spreading pandemic but also the COVID-19 infodemic, which can derail efforts in saving lives.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23279
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Infodemic
  • Infodemiology
  • LMIC countries
  • Misinformation
  • Vulnerability

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