As the virus continues to sweep across the world, we have put together essential resources for those interested in tackling the coronavirus infodemic. On this page, you can find information on what the online platforms are doing to combat coronavirus mis and disinformation. You can find content on the narratives, trends, and strategies defining the infodemic, whether that’s via our weekly Disinfo Updates or research. Moreover, we have dedicated sections on free tools to use, commentary on the infodemic, as well as its impact on our societies.  

This page will be updated regularly. All resources are also available to view in this spreadsheet

Please reach out to us here in case you think there’s something we should feature.

 

Table of Contents:

  1. Highlights
  2. Online Platforms’ Responses to the Infodemic
  3. Public Authorities Tackling the Infodemic
  4. Fact-Checking and Journalism
  5. Investigative Research
  6. Impact of the Infodemic
  7. Free Tools
  8. Funding and Support
    1.  
As the infodemic captures the world, old and new conspiracy theories find a way to take over the public debate. Thanks to our monitoring of independently fact-checked disinformation from France, Italy, and Spain, we have noticed that similar patterns are emerging regarding the types of conspiracy theories deliberately related to COVID-19.
As the virus swept across the world, we decided to zoom into the narratives defining what the WHO term as “the infodemic”. Based on our monitoring of independently fact-checked disinformation from France, Italy, and Spain, we have been able to draw trends from the content, such as the strategies and platforms used to disinform.

Highlights

Online platforms' responses to the infodemic

As we approach the one-year mark on the COVID-19 pandemic, the actions taken by platforms in response are far to many to list neatly anymore. Drawing on their reporting for the European Commission’s Covid-19 Monitoring Programme, Trisha Meyer of VUB offers us a synthesis and analysis of Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter’s responses to COVID-19 and US elections related disinformation. (February 2021).  This article offers highlights and key takaways, but we encourage you to consult the two timeline resources in full: with the data organised per platform and per response type

To complement this synthesis, here are some other useful resources:

Friction! Charting the trend of slowing the velocity of content

In October, as many states entered the second wave of the Coronavirus and a parallel surge in health related misinformation, the UN urged people to pause before sharing information online with the hashtag #PledgetoPause. For their part, platforms have been experimenting more and more with “speedbump”, “friction“, or “circuit breaker” features. This technique slows the spread of content and allows for newly viral content to be temporarily stopped from spreading while it is fact-checked. Evelyn Douek has called this “the next frontier now that we’re wandering around outside the take-down/leave-up binary of content moderation.”

  • Facebook piloted a so-called ‘circuit-breaker‘ back in August, which helped reduce the spread of the Plandemic Sequel denialist video. 
  • Twitter temporarily added a step for retweets, nudging users to add a comment before amplifying that content, though it later removed rolled back this experiment.
  • According to TechCrunch, WhatsApp’s new limit cuts virality of ‘highly forwarded’ messages by 70%.
  • Twitter has also developed a feature, not yet public, that would display a “misleading information” label when a user tries to “Like” a tweet that has been labeled as misinformation.
  • The US elections motivated other platforms to take similar measures, and suggest that friction – long considered a ‘bug’ to be overcome in favor of seemless, infinite reach – just might become a feature.
  • Twitter and Facebook both added friction to sharing in the week before the US elections that will slow the spread of Covid-related misinformation. For Covid-related memes and videos, Facebook will show you the date the content first appeared, so you can reconsider whether you still want to pass it along.

ACCOUNTABILITY: How effectively are platforms enforcing their new principles, policies and terms of service?

  • According to research from The Markup’s Citizen Browser project, official information related to COVID-19 may be reaching fewer Black Americans on Facebook than other demographic groups. Facebook’s response that the data sample was too small to reflect the breadth of users on the platform raises the question of what the company will do itself to promote more complete research and ensure accountability. 
  • A guest publication from Philippines-based Rappler News (February 2021) shows how use of Facebook’s messaging apps WhatsApp and Messenger has increased since the pandemic (especially in the countries hardest hit by the virus) but Facebook’s efforts to address false information neglect its messaging apps.
  • In February 2021, NewsGuard discovered that over 400 websites in the United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany and Italy were actively promoting pandemic-related misinformation to a wide online audience.
  • Our research into the moderation of 5G and Covid-19 conspiracy theories on Twitter and YouTube shows that, while content moderation efforts are continually improving and scaling up, they still remain insufficient and sometimes excessively slow
  • We have also examined the  loopholes in the enforcement of Facebook policies, locating a discrepancy in consistent enforcement. We especially point to the fact that labelling of fact-checked disinformation on hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) can easily be overturned and lead to similar stories circulating without any labelling or context.
  • September 2020, Avaaz reporting shows how loopholes in Facebook’s content moderation of labeled misinformation, which allows debunked messages to continue circulating on the platform after minor tweeks.
  • Popular Information reports in October that Amazon has paid more than $40,000 to one of the leading sources of vaccine misinformation in the United States.
  • Anti-vaccine videos have managed to slip through YouTube’s advertising policies.
  • In November, Buzzfeed revealed how Facebook continues to profit from ads placed by the far-right organization Azov despite having banned the movement from the platform over a year ago.
  • In January 2021, The Markup’s Citizen Browser project found that Facebook had continued to promote partisan political content, even after they claimed to have stopped recommending it.

Public authorities tackling the infodemic

Fact-checking & Journalism

Searchable libraries

Resources for journalists

  • Meedan is a technology non-profit that builds software supports global journalism. They have a tool to help answer journalists’ questions about COVID-19 by connecting them to answers from their team of public health experts. They also have a Digital Health Lab.
  • The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) have created an online toolkit providing research, sample messaging and suggested tactics to help local journalists craft vaccine education messages best suited to their audiences.
  • CoronaCheck, a computational verification tool for coronavirus statistical claims, is a joint effort from the teams of Prof. Papotti at EURECOM and of Prof. Trummer at Cornell University. (available in English, Italian, French, and German).
  • WikiProject Medicine: This project brings together accurate information on health science. The editorial team accepts only citations of peer-reviewed papers, textbooks or reports from prominent medical centers and institutes.
  • We Verify on Covid-19: Speeding Up The Debunking Process.
  • Ethical Journalism Network “Ethical reporting in times of Covid”
  • Poynter’s COVID-19 Resources, including tools for fact-checking and tips for journalists.
  • First Draft’s repository of webinars for journalists covering the Coronavirus crisis.
  • The International Center for Journalists has created a Global Health Crisis Reporting Forum to connect journalists with some of the world’s top health practitioners, newsroom leaders and other experts, who can answer questions in live video chats.

Insights and Studies

Access to credible information

  • For The Atlantic, Renee DiResta argues that health experts do not understand how information moves online, which prevents them from effectively filling COVID-19 knowledge gaps and instead feeds into the popularity of unreliable (often misinformative) sources.
  • According to commentators for Slate, the battle faced by authoritative sources to provide accurate information on COVID-19 is complexified by the fast-changing landscape of scientific findings, facts, and uncertainties. This makes accuracy hard to attain due to the novelty of the virus.
  • Google and the Cost of ‘Data Voids’ during a Pandemic: This piece explores the impact of data voids — a lack of relevant information for search terms — which can increase users’ chances of exposure to mis/disinformation.

Investigative Research

Charting narratives and trends

Disinformation actors and amplifiers

Identity polarisation

  • Coda Story has an exclusive on new research detailing how a series of Twitter hashtags have pushed Islamophobic disinformation to 170 million users since the outbreak of the pandemic.
  • Centre for Countering Digital Hate’s investigation on how the British far-right are blaming Muslims for the coronavirus.
  • In a co-investigation by BBC Click and the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, authors indicate how both extremist political and fringe medical communities have tried to exploit the pandemic online.

Conspiracy theories

Politicisation of the pandemic

Foreign influence

Tools free to use

Measuring the Impact of the Infodemic

Public opinion and COVID-19 disinformation, conspiracies, and false cures

The human cost of the Infodemic

Public trust in healthcare professionals

Democracy and fundamental rights

Funding and Support

Funding opportunities