Nav: Home

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information

July 29, 2020

A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19. Those that consume more traditional news media have fewer misperceptions and are more likely to follow public health recommendations like social distancing.

In a study published in Misinformation Review, researchers looked at the behavioural effects of exposure to misinformation by combining social media analysis, news analysis, and survey research. They combed through millions of tweets, thousands of news articles, and the results of a nationally representative survey of Canadians to answer three questions: How prevalent is COVID-19 misinformation on social media and in traditional news media? Does it contribute to misperceptions about COVID-19? And does it affect behaviour?

"Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly becoming the primary sources of news and misinformation for Canadians and people around the world. In the context of a crisis like COVID-19, however, there is good reason to be concerned about the role that the consumption of social media is playing in boosting misperceptions," says co-author Aengus Bridgman, a PhD Candidate in Political Science at McGill University under the supervision of Dietlind Stolle.

Results showed that, compared to traditional news media, false or inaccurate information about COVID-19 is circulated more on social media platforms like Twitter. The researchers point to a big difference in the behaviours and attitudes of people who get their news from social media versus news media - even after taking into account demographics as well as factors like scientific literacy and socio-economic differences. Canadians who regularly consume social media are less likely to observe social distancing and to perceive COVID-19 as a threat, while the opposite is true for people that get their information from news media.

"There is growing evidence that misinformation circulating on social media poses public health risks," says co-author Taylor Owen, an Associate Professor at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University. "This makes it even more important for policy makers and social media platforms to flatten the curve of misinformation."
-end-
About the study

"The causes and consequences of COVID-19 misperceptions: Understanding the role of news and social media" by Aengus Bridgman, Eric Merkley, Peter John Loewen, Taylor Owen, Derek Ruths, Lisa Teichmann, and Oleg Zhilin is published in Misinformation Review. The project was funded through the Department of Canadian Heritage's Digital Citizens Initiative.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.37016/mr-2020-028

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada's top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It?is a world-renowned?institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/http://twitter.com/McGillU

McGill University

Related Social Media Articles:

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.
How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.
COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.
Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.
Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.
Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.
How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.
Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.
Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.
Using social media to understand the vaccine debate in China
Vaccine acceptance is a crucial public health issue, which has been exacerbated by the use of social media to spread content expressing vaccine hesitancy.
More Social Media News and Social Media Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Sound And Silence
Sound surrounds us, from cacophony even to silence. But depending on how we hear, the world can be a different auditory experience for each of us. This hour, TED speakers explore the science of sound. Guests on the show include NPR All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly, neuroscientist Jim Hudspeth, writer Rebecca Knill, and sound designer Dallas Taylor.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have. We think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful beings, issuing momentous rulings from on high. But they haven't always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, started it all.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.