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Between Monday 27 January 2020 and Monday 03 February 2020, misinformation about Conspiracy Theory has increasead whereas misinformation about Causes has reduced.

The Fact-checking Observatory is an automatic service that collects misinforming content on Twitter using URLs that have been identified as potential misinformation by fact-checking websites. Using this data, the Fact-checking Observatory automatically generates weekly reports that updates the state of misinformation spread of fact-checked misinformation on Twitter.

This analysis is limited to URLs identified by Fact-checking organisations. The collected data only consist of non-blocked Twitter content and may be incomplete.

This report updates the status of misinformation spread between Monday 27 January 2020 and Monday 03 February 2020.

10,448 Misinforming Tweets
New:+5,734 Trend:+1,233
1,283 Fact-checking Tweets
New:+1,080 Trend:+880
10,803 Fact-checks
98 Fact-checking Organisations

Key Content and Topics

During the period between Monday 27 January 2020 and Monday 03 February 2020, 5,734 new URLs have been identified as potential misinforming content. Out of the 7 topics identified by Fact-checking organisations (Figure 1), most of the new shared URLs were about Conspiracy Theory with an increase of +4,239 compared to the previous total spread for the same topic. The topic that saw the least increase in spread compared to the previous period total spread was Symptoms with a change of +15 compared to the previous total spread for the same topic.

The topics used for the analysis are obtained from the COVID-19 specific fact-check alliance database and are defined as follows:

  1. Authorities: Information relating to government or authorities communication and general involvement during the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., crime, government, aid, lockdown).
  2. Causes: Information about the virus causes and outbreaks (e.g., China, animals).
  3. Conspiracy theories: COVID-19-related conspiracy theories (e.g., 5G, biological weapon).
  4. Cures: Information about potential virus cures (e.g., vaccines, hydroxychloroquine, bleach).
  5. Spread: Information relating to the spread of COVID-19 (e.g., travel, animals).
  6. Symptoms: Information relating to symptoms and symptomatic treatments of COVID-19 (e.g., cough, sore throat).
  7. Other: Any topic that does not fit directly the aforementioned categories.

In relation to the previous week, the topic that saw the biggest relative spread change was Conspiracy Theory with a change of +2,861 compared to the previous total spread for the same topic whereas the topic that saw the least relative change was Conspiracy Theory with a change of -1,579 compared to the previous period.

The all time most important topic is Conspiracy Theory with a total of 5,617 URL shares and the least popular topic is Symptoms with 22 shares (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Topic Importance.

Figure 2: Amount of topic shares per week.

The top misinforming content and fact-checking articles shared since the last report are listed in Table 1 and Table 2.

Misinforming URL Fact-check URL Topic Current Week Previous Week Total
https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/coronavirus-contains-hiv-insertions-stoking-fears-over-artificially-created-bioweapon FactCheck.org Conspiracy Theory 2312 0 2312
https://indeep.jp/found-hiv-in-wuhan-coronavirus/ BuzzFeed Japan Conspiracy Theory 562 0 562
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jan/26/coronavirus-link-china-biowarfare-program-possible/ BuzzFeed Japan Conspiracy Theory 540 9 549
https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/coronavirus-treatment-cow-urine-cow-dung-hindu-mahasabha-president-swami-chakrapani-maharaj-584736 Newschecker Cure 444 0 444
https://twitter.com/abdibaktur/status/1223918759536222208 Teyit Other 283 0 283
https://twitter.com/Nelsored1/status/1220730233944465410 Maldita.es Causes 239 1847 2086
https://buzzap.jp/news/20200129-tokyo2020-ioc-who-2019ncov/ BuzzFeed Japan Other 219 0 219
https://twitter.com/sonkoubun/status/1221331515692290048 BuzzFeed Japan Spread 184 372 556
https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/lab-made-coronavirus-triggers-debate-34502 LeadStories Conspiracy Theory 131 121 252
https://www.infowars.com/bill-and-melinda-gates-foundation-others-predicted-up-to-65-million-deaths-via-coronavirus-in-simulation-ran-3-months-ago/ FactCheck.org Conspiracy Theory 107 348 455

Table 1: Top misinforming content.

Fact-check URL Topic Current Week Previous Week Total
https://www.buzzfeed.com/jp/kotahatachi/unknown-cause-china-2 Spread 135 0 135
https://www.buzzfeed.com/jp/saoriibuki/corona-virus-health-insurance Other 124 0 124
https://www.buzzfeed.com/jp/kotahatachi/noganisarerugaharikoronauirusunisi Authorities 90 0 90
https://www.factcheck.org/2020/01/new-coronavirus-wasnt-predicted-in-simulation/ Conspiracy Theory 40 0 40
https://www.factcheck.org/2020/01/comedian-sam-hyde-not-behind-spread-of-coronavirus/ Other 34 0 34
https://www.buzzfeed.com/jp/kotahatachi/unknown-cause-china-3 Conspiracy Theory 27 0 27
https://www.factcheck.org/2020/01/coronavirus-wasnt-sent-by-spy-from-canada/ Conspiracy Theory 24 0 24
https://www.politifact.com/facebook-fact-checks/statements/2020/jan/28/blog-posting/websites-spin-conspiracy-theory-about-coronavirus-/ Conspiracy Theory 23 0 23
https://www.politifact.com/facebook-fact-checks/statements/2020/jan/28/blog-posting/no-evidence-chinese-officials-will-say-coronavirus/ Conspiracy Theory 22 0 22
https://factcheck.afp.com/chinese-spies-did-not-steal-deadly-coronavirus-canada Conspiracy Theory 21 0 21

Table 2: Top fact-checked content.


The data used for creating the Twitter dataset is obtained from the Poynter Coronavirus Fact Alliance. The alliance consists of 98 fact-checking organisation based in 635 countries and covering 46 languages.

The largest amount of fact-checked content comes from English (6,130 fact-checks) and the least is Finland (1 fact-checks). Most fact-checked content is in Spanish (3,367) followed by Portuguese (1,998) and French (963) (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Amount of fact-checks by language.

Figure 4: Amount of fact-checked content per contry.

Determining a direct impact of fact-checking on the spread of misinformation is not easy. However, it is possible to determine how well a particular corrective information is spreading in relation to its corresponding misinformation.

Figure 5 shows how misinformation and fact-checking content has spread in various topics for the last two analysis periods and overall.

Figure 5: Topical misinformation and fact-checks spread.

Demographic Impact

Using automatic methods, Twitter account demographics are extracted for user age, gender and account type (i.e., identify if an account belong to an individual or organisation).

Figure 6 displays how misinformation and fact-checks are spread by different demographics.

Figure 6: Misinformation and Fact-check spread for different demographics. Top: Gender, Center: Age group, Bottom: Account type.

Data Collection and Methodology

The full methodology and information about the limitation and dataset used for this analysis can be accessed in the [methodology page](https://fcobservatory.org/faq/).