The proliferation of fake news could be exacerbating disease outbreaks like the new coronavirus, say scientists—while efforts to tackle the spread of misinformation has the potential to save lives. Fake news is “manufactured with no respect for accuracy,” explain researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the U.K. It is fiction disguised as fact and often features “emotive or conspiracy-framed narratives.” It is also exceedingly popular—by some measurements, around half of the U.S. population endorses one or more health-based conspiracy theories. Social media users are also far more likely to share fake news and pseudoscience than medical information from legitimate health authorities, the researchers found. In two studies, one in Transactions of the Society for Modelling and Simulation International and one in Revue-Depidemiologie-Et-De-Sante-Publique, scientists investigated how the spread of fake news could spread infectious disease, with influenza, monkeypox and the norovirus used as case studies. However, they say the same information could be applied to the COVID-19 coronavirus. The studies’ authors used computer simulations and real-world data on disease virality, human behavior and disease incubation periods and recovery times, as well as data social media posting and information sharing. This allowed them to compare how different levels of… Read full this story
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