U.S. President Donald Trump is probably the biggest misinformation factor about Covid-19, according to a Cornell University study, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
A team from the Cornell Science Alliance analyzed about 38 million articles published in English between January 1 and May 26, 2020 in the United States, United Kingdom, India, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to a few others African and Asian countries.
More than 522,400 articles were identified with false information about the coronavirus, a phenomenon called “infodemia” by the World Health Organization. The impact of these publications on social networks was also calculated, with more than 36 million interactions, three quarters on Facebook.
In total, eleven categories of false information have been identified, from miracle cures to conspiracy theories – that the virus was created to form a new world order; that it is a biological weapon disseminated by a Chinese laboratory; which is a disease linked to tycoon Bill Gates; that the virus was created to control the world population, among others.
False cures were by far the most popular category, with 295,351 articles. Trump’s comments were responsible for a significant increase in this type of lie, in particular his suggestion to inject disinfectant to combat Covid-19, made at a press conference in April.
Similar peaks also occurred when he promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine, a treatment whose effectiveness has not been proven. “Therefore, we conclude that the President of the United States was without a doubt the most important factor of disinformation” about the new coronavirus, the researchers said.
– If people were deceived by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they are less likely to follow official recommendations and thus spread the virus even more “- pointed out Sarah Evanega, who led the study.
“One of the most interesting aspects of data collection was discovering the impressive amount of false information directly related to the statements of a small number of individuals,” said Jordan Adams, research co-author and data analyst at Cision Insight.