Inoculating Against An #Infodemic- Don't Be Fooled by Covid-19 Misinformation

As health officials around the world grapple with a pandemic caused by a new coronavirus, COVID-19, they are also facing a deluge of misinformation about the virus on traditional and social media. The World Health Organization is calling this phenomenon an “infodemic” – “an overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” To help stem the tide of COVID-19 misinformation, our team of computational social scientists, communications professionals and developers are developing various real-time information dashboards to keep track of false COVID-19 claims. Our  various misinformation dashboards track and visualize debunked coronavirus claims from an international network of trusted fact checkers. Browse through to see the latest debunked COVID-19 false claims from around the world. 

Tracks and visualizes debunked coronavirus claims from a network of trusted fact checkers from around the world. 

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Tracks and visualizes debunked coronavirus claims mentioning or associated with a specific geographic location.

[Updated Daily] 

Tracks and visualizes coronavirus misinformation news stories published by media organizations in Canada.

[Updated Daily] 

Twelve Common Types of COVID-19 Fact-checked Claims

Based on our manual review of over 2500 debunked claims with keywords “COVID” or “Coronavirus”, as recorded by the Google Fact Check Tools between Jan 22 – May 6 2020,  here are the 12 most common types of COVID-19 related claims that are currently making  the rounds online:

Fact-checked Claim Types Coding Schema & Dashboard

Now in its second iteration, the COVID-19 Claim Types Coding Schema includes 12 different fact-checked claim types and their definitions . The aim of the coding schema is to facilitate a systematic review and grouping of similar claims under the same claim type. By applying the coding schema, researchers can study the types of claims that are circulating online and offline, their prevalence and persistence over time. The coding schema can also inform work by policy makers and developers when implementing different mitigation strategies in response to different claim types. 

The first version of this coding schema with the seven initial codes was originally published in Policy Options Magazine on April 14, 2020.

Citation: Gruzd, A. & Mai, P. (2020). COVID-19 Claim Types Coding Schema, Version 2.0. Ryerson University Social Media Lab.
  • Country or Region-Specific Reports: COVID-19 related claims specific to a country, region, or city. Examples include purported action of elected officials and other public authorities, or the reporting of statistics about the number of cases from a specific area.
  • Diagnostics, Prevention, Cures: Claims about unlicensed COVID-19 tests, home remedies and natural medicine presented as a “cure” to or as a “preventive” measure from contracting the virus. Examples include everything from drinking lots of water to drinking bleach, to taking cocaine. This category also includes claims about the existence, development, testing or distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. Finally, the category includes statements about the effectiveness of or how to make your own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Speculation on the Origin and Prognostication: Claims and discussions of various theories about the origin of the virus. Examples include “the virus was created in a laboratory” or “5G technology caused or contributed to the pandemic”. This category also includes reports of prognostication by famous (usually dead) people who purportedly predicted the pandemic.
  • Exaggeration of the Virus Severity: Claims exaggerating the virus severity: either diminishing its severity (e.g. “it’s just like the flu”) or inflating its severity (e.g. photos of mass graves or bodies lying on the street).
  • Race, Ethnicity, Religion, and Identity: Claims with a reference to someone’s identity including race, gender, sexual orientation, ideology, religion, nationality, etc. Examples include linking or accusing people of certain religion or ethnicity to the intentional or unintentional spread of the virus.
  • Transmission: General claims about how the virus spreads (e.g. via food, travel, clothes), or how long it survives on different surfaces, or whether it is airborne. This category also includes reports about the virus’ transmission across species, and cases when individuals intentionally or unintentionally spread the virus in public spaces.
  • Public Figures: Rumours about public figures (e.g. politician, celebrity, business leader, social media influencer) contracting the virus or dying because of it (e.g. a false claim about the death of the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson).
  • Business and the Economy: Statements about how the virus has affected the stock markets, the state of the economy or financial outlook for a country or the world. This category also includes claims related to specific businesses and how they are affected by the pandemic (e.g. “Corona beer sales have dropped sharply due to fear about the coronavirus”, or that supposedly “Netflix gives away free subscription”).
  • Symptoms or Medical Procedures: Claims related to or showing symptoms or effect of the virus on a human body, or content (e.g. videos, photos) showing a purported medical procedures or treatment done by healthcare workers or in a clinical setting on a purported COVID-19 patient.
  • Nature and the Environment: Reports and observations linking the pandemic to changes observed in the weather, the climate or nature. Examples include claims of sightings of wildlife in urban areas due to the lockdown, reduction or increases in pollution because of the pandemic.
  • Scams and Frauds: The deceptive use of facts and stories about COVID-19 to trick someone. Examples include luring people to fake websites with the promise of virus-related cures or government benefits for the purpose of stealing people’s personal information, or convincing people to donate to fake charitable campaigns.
  • Other: Uncategorized claims or claims that did not fit in other categories.

Semantic Connections among COVID-19 Fact-checked Claims

Click on the network picture below to see an interactive visualization of different themes and semantic connections among 2,400 pieces of  fact-checked #COVID19 claims.

Additional Fact Checking Resources

Also check out the following awesome misinformation resources to inoculate yourself against an infodemic:

For up-to-date information and additional resources on COVID-19, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada.