Sharp increase in coronavirus fake news reports shared on Twiter
The number of unreliable news reports about the coronavirus shared on Twitter increased significantly over the past month. At the start of the coronavirus crisis in the Netherlands early in March, there were around 20 misleading reports about the virus being shared on Twitter. Over the past month, that increased to 251, according to a study by Pointer.
Pointer studied almost 1.2 million Dutch language tweets that included the terms corona, coronavirus, #coronavragen, Covid or NCOV between February 19 and April 22 for this study. The fake news the researchers found involved things like the unproven link between 5G and Covid-19, false claims about medicines and household products that can "cure" people of the virus, and conspiracy theories about the rich allegedly fabricating the virus, according to Pointer.
"The sources for these misleading Twitter posts include websites such as Need To Know, Xander Nieuws, De Dagelijkse Standaard, Ella Ster, and NineForNews," the researchers said. "Also in YouTube videos by Robert Jensen, Ongehoord Nederland and Café Weltschmerz, incorrect and unproven statements about the coronavirus are regularly made."
Every day dozens of Twitter accounts spread this misinformation - since the start of the crisis, there's been 5,047 such tweets from 1,891 unique Twitter accounts, the researchers said. On average, there are about 80 Dutch tweets containing coronavirus fake news per day.
"This misinformation about Covid-19 can often be recognized by sensational claims without citation or distorted information," the researchers said.