You can already imagine Donald Trump declaring it "fake news," but a new study has revealed that the US President's comments were the basis for almost 38% of English-language media articles containing erroneous information on Covid-19. The statistic is particularly worrying in the current context, since the USA counts more than seven million cases of the disease. Even Donald Trump himself and his wife, Melania, have tested positive for covid-19.
Researchers at Cornell University in the US analyzed some 38 million English-language media articles about the novel coronavirus pandemic, published worldwide between January 1 and May 26, 2020. They found that Donald Trump was mentioned in 37.9% of articles relaying erroneous information about the pandemic, making the US President "likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation 'infodemic'."
Back in May, the head of the White House advocated a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for treatment of the novel coronavirus to his 74 million Twitter followers. This unfounded recommendation led to almost 20,000 English-language articles on the subject.
HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains - Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents).....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2020
Furthermore, Donald Trump's musings on injecting disinfectant to cure covid-19 gave rise to the publication of over 30,000 articles on miracle cures for the novel coronavirus, compared with just 10,000 in the days prior to his comment.
"Unwittingly or unintentionally, media do play a major role in disseminating misinformation because they amplify the voices of prominent people, even if those sources are incorrect," said the study's lead author Sarah Evanega, director of the Cornell Alliance for Science. "It's important that media give prominence to genuine experts and representatives of scientific institutions."
The Cornell study reveals that only 16.4% of English-language articles mentioning misinformation about the pandemic were of a fact-checking nature, "suggesting that a substantial quantity of misinformation reaches media consumers without being challenged or accompanied by factually accurate information." This growing phenomenon has been dubbed an "infodemic" by the World Health Organization.
The Cornell team also highlighted the most frequent covid-19 "fake news" themes in English-language articles worldwide. The most prevalent misinformation topic was found to be the existence of a miracle cure for the novel coronavirus, with other popular themes involving new world orders and deep state government bodies, and the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the covid-19 pandemic.
These conspiracy theories are notably spread on social media sites such as Facebook, where, according to a recent study from Avaaz, they gained more than half a million views in April. It seems like "fake news" is here to stay.