Survey: Facebook greatest source of coronavirus disinformation

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Out of all the social media platforms available, Facebook is the “most prolific enabler” of disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent international survey among journalists.

The “Journalism and the Pandemic” study, which surveyed more than 1,400 English-speaking journalists in 125 countries, said that 66% of the respondents identified Facebook as the primary online platform used to spread fake and misleading information.

Meanwhile, 42% identified Twitter, while 35% answered WhatsApp, a messaging platform owned by Facebook.

Some 22% chose YouTube, while 11% said Instagram.

“When it came to reporting dis/misinformation to the platforms, 82% of respondents said they had reported such content to at least one of the identified companies during the first wave of the pandemic,” the study said.

“A quarter (25%) of respondents said that they had reported dis/misinformation to Facebook – by far the highest for any single platform,” it added.

The study also tagged political leaders and elected officials as second top sources of disinformation, following ordinary citizens.

“While regular citizens remain the No. 1 purveyor of disinformation, political leaders and elected officials come in at a close second. This is particularly disheartening at a time when information can literally mean the difference between life and death,” it noted.

Government agencies or their spokespersons and state-sponsored troll networks were likewise tagged as enablers of disinformation.

The study was a collaborative effort between the International Center for Journalists and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

“Our report demonstrates that journalists are working in a severely pressured financial, physical and psychological environment during the pandemic,” the researchers said.
“This will be the most enduringly difficult professional period many have experienced during their careers,” they added.

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