U.S. President Donald Trump has been the primary global contributor to disinformation about Covid-19 during the pandemic, a Cornell University study said Thursday.
A team from the Cornell Alliance for Science evaluated 38 million articles published by traditional English-language media around the world between January 1 and May 26 of this year.
They found that his false statements calling the coronavirus a ‘hoax’, made in the lab or coming from ‘bat soup’ and even attacking health officials like Dr Fauci echoed hundreds of thousands of articles. and republications around the world.
In total, they identified 522,472 news articles that reproduced or amplified disinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic, or what the World Health Organization (WHO) called the “infodemic.”
These have been categorized into 11 main sub-themes, ranging from conspiracy theories and attacks on top scientist Anthony Fauci to the idea that the virus is a biological weapon triggered by China.
But by far the most popular topic was what the study authors called “miracle cures,” which featured in 295,351 articles – more than the other 10 topics combined.
US President Donald Trump’s plea for unproven cures for coronavirus has been linked by researchers to spikes in misinformation conveyed by the English-language global media
The authors found that President Trump’s comments caused major spikes in the topic of ‘miracle cures’, led by his April 24 press briefing where he was considering the possibility of using disinfectants inside the body. to cure the coronavirus.
Similar peaks were seen when he promoted unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine.
“We therefore conclude that the President of the United States was probably the main driver of the ‘infodemic’ disinformation of COVID-19,” the team wrote.
Sara Evanega, who led the study and is director of the Cornell Alliance for Science, said: “If people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated disease claims, they may be less likely to observe official guidelines and thus risk spreading the virus. “
When President Trump announced that wearing masks in public had become the official guide for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he said he likely would not wear one.
Today, there are still anti-mask protests in the United States – and around the world – despite numerous studies that have shown their effectiveness in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Trump blamed Dr Fauci and other health experts for advising against masks.
“Dr Fauci said the opposite, he said very firmly that the masks were not good, and then he changed his mind, he said the masks were good,” Trump said.
Amid Trump’s many misrepresentations, this one has merit.
Fauci, the CDC and the WHO all reaffirmed at the onset of the pandemic that masks were not effective ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But they changed course as research began to suggest that asymptomatic people were important factors in transmission.
Miracle cures topped Trump’s list of most talked about lies, in part due to his frequent promotion of hydroxychloroquine (left). Trump’s attacks on scientists like Dr Fauci (right) were the source of the fifth most common type of information the Cornell team discovered he had released
Dr Fauci said Thursday his comments were “taken out of context” in an interview with ABC News on Thursday.
“So the feeling was that the people who wanted to have masks in the community, namely just the people on the street, could accumulate masks and make the mask shortage even more serious. In this context, we said that we do not recommend the masks, ”said Dr Fauci.
Although Dr. Fauci quickly became a household name, his words simply didn’t travel as far or as fast as President Trump’s.
As Dr Fauci implored the American public to wear masks, Trump continued to throw them aside, and many of his constituents followed suit.
“One of the most interesting aspects of the data collection process was to discover the staggering amount of disinformation coverage directly linked to the public comments of a small number of people,” co-author Jordan Adams, data analyst at Cision Insights database, added.
The database they used aggregates coverage of countries such as the United States, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and other African and Asian countries. .
After miracle cures, the second most common subject of misinformation was that the pandemic was created to advance a “new world order”.
Next is the claim that the pandemic was a hoax for political gain on the part of the US Democratic Party, followed by plots alleging the virus was a biological weapon released by a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
Conspiracy theories linking the pandemic to philanthropist Bill Gates came next, followed by the hoax that the symptoms of Covid-19 are caused by 5G phone networks, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and the notion that the virus is a form of control. Population.
Attacks on US government scientist Fauci, references to the debunked “Plandemic” video, and blaming the virus on Chinese people consuming bat soup completed the list.
The study’s authors also tracked how stories were shared on social media, finding that the posts had 36 million engagements, three-quarters of which were on Facebook.
The research was partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.