A small group of researchers at Sony Computer Science Laboratories in France investigated why misinformation seemed to flourish during the global pandemic. In their work published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, Pietro Gravino, Giulio Prevedello, Martina Galletti and Vittorio Loretom examined the supply and demand of COVID-19 news during the pandemic and compared the way in which news agencies responded.
One of the most striking features of the global pandemic is the seemingly uninterrupted stream of misinformation attributed not only to the virus and people infected, but to the way the medical community has responded to the threat. From ridiculous claims about supposed treatments to baseless claims made by anti-vaxxers, misinformation has flourished. In this new endeavor, researchers wondered why this happens and looked at news sources, credible and unreliable, as participants in a supply and demand news ecosystem.
The work involved examining the problem in Italy – they began by obtaining articles published by Italian media sources in a public database. They also retrieved information from another article database published by data control teams, which helped them differentiate news sources based on their reliability. All these items were the supply side of the system.
To learn more about pandemic information search, researchers looked at Google search trends. To compare news supply and demand, the researchers looked at searches performed by information seekers and compared them with the answers available from news sources. The researchers found that those news sources that were identified as generally unreliable tended to respond more quickly to new information than to more traditional and reliable sources.
The researchers were unable to determine why unreliable news sources were able to respond more quickly, but suggested that the end result was higher visibility for unreliable sources, with widespread misinformation gaining traction and eventual acceptance.
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Pietro Gravino et al, Supply and demand of news during COVID-19 and evaluation of the production of disputed sources, Nature Human Behavior (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41562-022-01353-3
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Reference: Why misinformation has flourished during the pandemic (2022, May 25) Retrieved May 26, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-disinformation-flourished-pandemic.html
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