MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

‘Infodemics’ are outbreaks of false information including rumours, stigma, and conspiracy theories. All of these have been common during the COVID-19 pandemic. The detection, assessment, and response to rumours, stigma, and conspiracy theories in real time are a challenge.

An international team of researchers followed and examined COVID-19-related rumours, stigma, and conspiracy theories circulating on online platforms, including fact-checking agency websites, Facebook, Twitter, and online newspapers, and their impacts on public health. Information was extracted between December 31, 2019 and April 5, 2020, and descriptively analysed. The team performed a content analysis of the news articles to compare and contrast data collected from other sources.

The researchers identified 2,311 reports of rumours, stigma, and conspiracy theories in 25 languages from 87 countries. Claims were related to:

  • illness, transmission and mortality (24%),
  • control measures (21%),
  • treatment and cure (19%),
  • cause of disease including the origin (15%),
  • violence (1%),
  • and miscellaneous (20%).

Of the 2,276 reports for which text ratings were available, 1,856 claims were false (82%).

The authors concluded that misinformation fuelled by rumours, stigma, and conspiracy theories can have potentially serious implications on the individual and community if prioritized over evidence-based guidelines. Health agencies must track misinformation associated with the COVID-19 in real time, and engage local communities and government stakeholders to debunk misinformation.

These findings are as perplexing as they are frightening. On this blog, we have since the beginning of the pandemic focussed on the SCAM for COVID-19. We have seen that this health crisis provided an occasion for almost any quackery on the planet:

  • homeopaths,
  • supplement salesmen,
  • TCM-practitioners,
  • chiropractors,
  • anti-vaxxers,
  • Siddha-doctors,
  • Vitamin-peddlers,
  • politicians,
  • evangelists,
  • acupuncturists,
  • herbalists,
  • essential oil salesmen.

They all crept out of the woodwork. Their methods may differ, but their aim seems to be the same: to make a fast buck regardless of how many people their activities might kill.

18 Responses to A survey of the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’

  • This list is just “ad hominem-ism” taken to a new level. Every one of these individuals is to be presumed guilty of “Quackery” and lies no matter what they claim, just based on a label stuck on them?

    The WHO & CDC should be included in the list for all their lies. Oh, I forgot, everything they say is ipso facto the “truth” whether it is true or not, and big tech have announced they will censor anything that states otherwise.

    Lets remember that “consensus science” is an oxymoron. Science is built on disagreement and discussion. Everyone looks at the evidence differently. No one has a lock on the truth. What is thought to be the truth one day by mainstream, may be discovered to be wrong later when new information surfaces.

    And as Dr Horton, of Lancet, and Dr Ioannidis have stated _Many_ of the studies that are published are patently false, as many as 50%; quote: “poor methods get results.” I think Health Agencies should better spend their time cleaning up the corruption in science and medicine and the agencies that fund and control it.

  • Honest question, all the SCAM listed is just as bad as info coming from world medical entities. The info has been all over the place, as a person who wishes to stay safe I have become very uneasy. The guidelines and tests are all effed up, new policy, new directive and reversal of these are changing every day. I am in belief that scientists and charlatans are equal right now in this pandemic, they don’t know and will not admit it. I will wear my mask, stay away from people and feel safe. When the scientists come out with a plan, I will follow it when it is safe. Any vaccine at this point will be not taken by me, after a year most likely. What I have learned is that people researching this crap, the ones we are to trust have made it political and this scares the bejesus out of me. You personally have probably written 5 times on Trump since this shit happened, that makes it political and I don’t trust politicians. Gorski is doing same thing on my other favorite site, SBM. When personal political beliefs become part of science, I will be very skeptical. You left scientists off your list, ones who have a political motive.

  • Politics and Science don’t work together, they don’t, one sways the other for an outcome by political power by way of empowerment. I actually believe science and politics should be like religion and politics. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of science.

  • The very question is how can I trust science when they get it wrong all the time, reverse the outcome which I respect but for many it is to late. I believe in science but I also question it, I need to research who is paying for the research, how is their outcome going to benefit the actual person paying for research. Scientists/Drs are people, they are swayed like all others with the almighty dollar. Mercola, Oz, Wakefield and those are top of my head, I could continue but it would be moot at this point. Science is wrong all the time, it can hurt many with current science and 20 yrs later say we were wrong, sorry.

    • science in not infallible; try to differentiate between sound and flimsy

      • Its not infallible, that is why the Health Authorities should not be in the business of deciding what is information or misinformation and de facto censoring what they disagree with, which is what is happening now.

    • The very question is how can I trust science when they get it wrong all the time

      That’s easy: Wait.

      Unlike your altmed/religions/politicians/etc, Science knows that it’s wrong, which is why it works its butt off to become less wrong over time.

      Me, I’ll take a robustly measured degree of wrongness over a pleasingly fabulated Truth any day of the year.

      • Quote: Unlike your altmed/religions/politicians/etc, Science knows that it’s wrong, which is why it works its butt off to become less wrong over time.” I dont know how to do the Lift Quote that you did.

        “Science” is made up of people. Some areas of science have your idealized free market of ideas. But areas where there is a lot of money at stake, like medicine, have been completely corrupted.Dr Ioannidis pointed out the failures in 2005. Dr Horton, in a Lancet editorial, pointed out the same failures ten years later. No change. Its only getting worse as we see in this “pandemic”. Doctors on the ground are caught in the middle and despite best intentions they and patients suffer from it.

        I dont know what you call “altmed”, but what I see is that contrary to your belief, “altmed” has evolved greatly in those 10 years. It doesnt have the corrupting influence of massive amounts of corporate money. With some exceptions its mostly just doctors trying to heal their patients.

  • I must admit, your list is spot on, would never take advice from any of those, they are charlatans.

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