Concerns over the spread of misinformation and fake news on social media – challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic

Janni Leung*, Mariyana Schoultz, Vivian Chiu , Tore Bonsaksen, Mary Ruffolo, Hilde Thygesen, Daicia Price, Amy Østertun Geirdal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

Introduction
The unfolding pandemic of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has caused challenges across the globe. Shelter-in-place, lock-down, and social distancing policies increased the use of social media for societies to stay connected. This study investigated psychological issues societies experienced from using social media among community during this critical period.

Methods
Cross-sectional online surveys were used to collect qualitative data from 1991 respondents living in the UK, USA and Australia during April-May 2020 when shelter-in-place or stay-at-home policies were in place.

Results
Concerns over misinformation, conspiracy theories, and fake news were repetitively raised as a critical challenge associated with reports of negative psychological consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, 1 in 3 respondent expressed concerns over misinformation as the key challenge, with higher prevalence among respondents from the USA (41%) than UK (35%) and Australia (32%), χ2(2)=8.5, p=0.015. While some thought social media had facilitated social connections, others said that differing opinions from friends and families have put stress on relationships and created negative psychology. Conflicting information (including information from government bodies, news outlets, information articles and individual opinions) have caused additional stress and anxiety.

Conclusions
The spread of misinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories have caused psychosocial challenges and disconnections in the community. Special attention is needed to address psychological issues caused by the spread of misinformation on social media during the crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of The 3rd International Electronic Conference on Environmental Research and Public Health
Place of PublicationBasel
PublisherMDPI AG
Pages1-6
Number of pages6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes
EventThe 3rd International Electronic Conference on Environmental Research and Public Health - Online
Duration: 11 Jan 202125 Jan 2021
https://sciforum.net/conference/ECERPH-3

Conference

ConferenceThe 3rd International Electronic Conference on Environmental Research and Public Health
Abbreviated titleECERPH-3
Period11/01/2125/01/21
Internet address

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