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30M tweets about COVID-19, and not all of them contain the truth. Who’s spreading misinformation?

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Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University
A stock photo of Twitter’s COVID-19 curated paged on Oct. 20, 2020.

Women over 50 are most likely to share pandemic-related stories on Twitter from websites that share fake news, and Republicans are many times more likely to share questionable material than Democrats, according to a new study by  researchers from Northeastern, Harvard, Northwestern, and Rutgers.

The study looked at age and demographics to pinpoint who is sharing false pandemic content via Twitter—cross referencing shares on the social media platform this year with URLs from five websites identified with fake news. “80 to 90 percent of fake news comes from a few tenths of one percent of all accounts,” says David Lazer, University Distinguished Professor of political science and computer and information sciences at Northeastern, and one of the researchers who conducted the study.

Researchers defined fake news as  information that mirrors legitimate news in form, but “lacks the news media’s editorial norms and processes for ensuring the accuracy and credibility of information.” The fake news domain with the most shares is Gateway Pundit, the study found. Since March, the website has received an order of magnitude more shares than the second most shared fake news domain, Info Wars.

The popularity of Gateway Pundit is even more striking when compared with all other web domains—including mainstream news media—that share news about the pandemic.  In August and September respectively, Gateway Pundit was ranked the 4th and 6th most shared domain for URLs about COVID-19. In August, the only domains with more COVID-19-related shares were the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN,  the study found.

Continue reading at News@Northeastern.

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