By Agency Reporter
US President Donald Trump has been found to be the world’s super spreader of Covid-19 misinformation during the pandemic, a study from Cornell University said today.
In a research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a team from the Cornell Alliance for Science evaluated 38 million articles.
The articles were published by English-language, traditional media worldwide between January 1 and May 26 of this year.
The database they used aggregates coverage from countries such as the United States, Britain, India, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other African and Asian nations.
They identified 522,472 news articles that reproduced or amplified misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic, or what the World Health Organization has called the “infodemic.”
These were categorised into 11 main sub-topics, ranging from conspiracy theories to attacks on top scientist Anthony Fauci to the idea that the virus is a bioweapon unleashed by China.
But the most popular topic by far was what the study authors termed “miracle cures,” which appeared in 295,351 articles — more than the other 10 topics combined.
The authors found that comments by President Trump drove major spikes in the “miracle cures” topic, led by his April 24 press briefing where he mused on the possibility of using disinfectants inside the body to cure the coronavirus.
Similar spikes were seen when he promoted unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine.
“We conclude therefore that the president of the United States was likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic,'” the team wrote.
Sarah Evanega, who led the study and is director of the Cornell Alliance for Science, said: “If people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they may be less likely to observe official guidance and thus risk spreading the virus.”
Co-author Jordan Adams, a data analyst at Cision Insights that provided the database, added: “One of the more interesting aspects of the data collection process was discovering the staggering amount of misinformation coverage directly linked to the public comments of a small number of individuals.”