As social distancing continues and covid-19 patients self-isolate, there are many coronavirus conspiracy theories which have been spreading on social media platforms. One of them has been falsely claiming that 5g technology has been responsible for the spread of the virus.
Other conspiracy theories have traced the origin of the virus to the Chinese government as a biological weapon. Australia hit back at the United States for the link that put a connection between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and COVID-19, and the New York Times noted that China Lab rejected the claims.
Fact checking has been more important than ever as there are other 10 current conspiracy theories, for instance, see this article COVID: Top 10 current conspiracy theories and one of them involves Bill Gates as a scapegoat. The World Health organisation has noted that during the coronavirus pandemic a battle against false information has also been taking place. Fact-checking has been more important than ever during the covid-19 pandemic. As conspiracy theorists run rampant across the digital landscape.
It has become more important to rapidly analyse content from social media platforms to understand the drivers of false news and to develop strategies to fight misinformation. In our latest studies published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) entitled COVID-19 and the 5G Conspiracy Theory: Social Network Analysis of Twitter Data we analyse the 5G Covid-19 conspiracy theory. More specifically, we set out to investigate which Twitter users and Web sources were influential.
We found that Infowars and other fake news websites were influential and Twitter users linked to YouTube videos which argued for the link between 5G and COVID-19. We also found that an individual account was set up to spread the conspiracy theory which should have been taken down by Twitter much sooner.
Overall we found that only a handful of users truly believed the conspiracy theory (35%), and others users inadvertently raised its profile to make it a trending topic on Twitter. We recommend that other Twitter users report such misinformation rather than engage and/or amplify it.
Our paper full paper can be read here: https://www.jmir.org/2020/5/e19458/