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First observatory to track false and corrective information about COVID-19

Academics at the OU have launched the first observatory to track false and corrective information about COVID-19.

The OU’s Knowledge Media institute has launched the Fact-Checking Observatory, to provide a better understanding of how misinformation and related fact-checks spread.

Alerting health-influencers of misinformation on social media

It generates weekly reports that highlight which misinformation and fact-checks are spreading the most, how their spread is changing over time, and what demographics are sharing this information. This is so that policymakers and health-influencers can be alerted about the rumours that are spreading more than others at this time.

"We observed that February saw a decrease in misinformation spread about vaccines compared to January and December whereas misinformation about how the virus spreads and its symptoms rose in February." said Dr Grégoire Burel, the lead researcher and developer of the Observatory.

Tracking of 10,000 false claims and their fact-checks

The Observatory is part of the Health Emergency Response in Interconnected Systems (HERoS) project, under which the OU received €393,000 from the €2.85 million EU Horizon 2020 programme in March 2020. The OU role in the project is to develop computational methods to help understand how fact-checks affect the spread of misinformation.

Professor Harith Alani, the OU’s Principal Investigator of the project, said:

“We found that although fact-checks are appearing quickly after the emergence of unreliable claims, they are not very effective in reducing the spread of misinformation. We also observed that conspiracy theories and misinformation about the cause of the virus are more resistant to fact-checks and are more likely to re-emerge over time.”

The Fact-Checking Observatory was seed funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund and extended through the HERoS project.

Find out more about what the OU is doing to support the response to Coronavirus

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