Infodemic: more than half of Canadians shared COVID-19 reports online without verifying accuracy

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      Seeing a lot of fake news?

      A new study observes that the COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by an “overabundance of information”.

      It’s called an “infodemic”.

      As researchers with Statistics Canada noted, this makes it “very difficult for people to find facts and reliable sources”.

      And that is dangerous.

      “Misinformation in the context of COVID-19 can endanger the population’s health, especially if the news that spreads is about false prevention measures or treatments, or if it undermines the population’s trust in health services and public or political institutions,” according to Karine Garneau and Clémence Zossou.

      Garneau and Zossou wrote the paper "Misinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic", which was released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday (February 2).

      The study has some interesting findings.

      For example, 96 percent of Canadians who used the Internet to find information saw COVID-19 information that they suspected was “misleading, false or inaccurate”.

      Also, nearly two in five Canadians or 40 percent reported “believing that the information they saw related to COVID-19 was true, then later realized that it was not”.

      Polling data used by the study likewise showed that “many Canadians were not in a regular habit of checking the accuracy of information they found online”.

      In particular, only 21 percent reported that they always check the accuracy of information, while and 37 percent said they often check.

      However, around 36 percent of Canadians reported that they only sometimes (24 percent) or rarely (12 percent) checked the accuracy of COVID-19 information they found online.

      According to the study, this “facilitates the sharing of potentially misleading, false or inaccurate information”.

      As Garneau and Zossou found, more than half of Canadians shared COVID-19 information they found online “without knowing whether it was accurate”.

      The authors noted that that 53 percent shared pandemic reports they found online without knowing if it was accurate (22 percent always, often or sometimes shared, and 31 percent rarely shared), while the other half (47 percent) never shared unverified information.

      The study also indicated that Canadians rely heavily on online searches for information.

      Nine in 10 Canadians or 90 percent used online sources.

      The three main sources were: online newspapers or news sites (63 percent), social media posts from news organizations or magazines (35 percent), and social media posts from other users or influencers (30 percent).

      More details are available here.