Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Trump largest contributor of misinformation about COVID-19

Dylan Scott reports in email from VoxCare: Trump "was likely the largest driver of COVID–19 misinformation”. Here is some of his report.

When I asked public health experts how the United States had reached 200,000 coronavirus deaths, several of them cited the misinformation coming from the White House and President Donald Trump himself.

The president has questioned the efficacy of masks, hyped unproven treatments, and continues to promise a vaccine before experts and the drug companies themselves believe it will actually be ready. That lack of clear and accurate communication has now extended to Trump’s own Covid–19 diagnosis, with his doctors seemingly obfuscating the details of the president’s condition. They have outright acknowledged downplaying the seriousness of his symptoms, and the treatment Trump is receiving does not entirely comport with the sunny prognosis advanced by the White House.

The effect of all of these communications failures is diffuse and uncertain. But we do know this much, according to new Cornell University research: The president of the United States was the loudest megaphone for Covid–19 misinformation during the first few months of the pandemic.

The researchers examined more than 1.1 million English-language articles published between January 1 and May 26 in traditional media outlets (retrieved through LexisNexis) that included some Covid–19 misinformation. They represented about 3 percent of the 38 million total articles published about the pandemic in that time.

Of those million-plus articles with misinformation, about 38 percent of them featured Donald Trump and some specific kind of misleading claim of which the president is fond, or a general reference to his penchant for spreading false information.

Trump’s influence is not just reflected in the amount of misleading information, but also the content of it — even if he wasn’t directly the source. Of the various types of misinformation identified by the Cornell study, “miracle cures” are by far the most common. The president has touted, without evidence, the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine and said he’d taken a course himself.

The deep state, which Trump has accused his own FDA of being in league with, ranks second. Other less-discussed but still-notable subjects included theories about the NIH infectious disease chief Anthony Fauci and claims the coronavirus is the result of human engineering.

“We conclude therefore that the President of the United States was likely the largest driver of the COVID–19 misinformation ‘infodemic,’” the Cornell researchers wrote.

The president isn’t solely to blame; the study also noted that a relatively small portion of the media stories including Covid–19 misinformation, about 16 percent, included fact-checking. That would suggest “the majority of COVID misinformation is conveyed by the media without question or correction.”

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