Between Monday 28 December 2020 and Monday 04 January 2021, misinformation about Other has increasead whereas misinformation about Authorities 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 28 December 2020 and Monday 04 January 2021.

236,453 Misinforming Tweets
New:+3,388 Trend:-3,407
116,274 Fact-checking Tweets
New:+1,855 Trend:-28
16,386 Fact-checks
101 Fact-checking Organisations

Key Content and Topics

During the period between Monday 28 December 2020 and Monday 04 January 2021, 3,388 new URLs have been identified as potential misinforming content. Out of the 8 topics identified by Fact-checking organisations (Figure 1), most of the new shared URLs were about Authorities with an increase of +3,532 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 Causes with a change of +10 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. Vaccines: Information relating to vaccines (e.g., side effects, effectiveness).
  8. Masks: Information concerning the usage of masks.
  9. 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 Other with a change of +6 compared to the previous total spread for the same topic whereas the topic that saw the least relative change was Other with a change of -3,226 compared to the previous period.

The all time most important topic is Other with a total of 94,197 URL shares and the least popular topic is Vaccine with 2,331 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://twitter.com/marcorubio/status/1343221417287016448 PolitiFact Authorities 3089 6306 9395
https://www.facebook.com/ifpdolorescahill/videos/1425129044342325/ TheJournal.ie Conspiracy Theory 48 0 48
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6936a5.htm D├ętecteur de rumeurs Other 43 25 1488
https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/world-news/corruption/belarusian-president-claims-imf-world-bank-offered-him-a-bribe-to-impose-covid-restrictions/ TEMPO Conspiracy Theory 34 179 619
https://www.lastampa.it/esteri/2020/05/04/news/test-sul-sangue-effettuati-in-giappone-rivela-la-mortalita-da-coronavirus-e-di-gran-lunga-inferiore-all-influenza-1.38801430 Open Other 29 12 386
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP-Aq6H8kOk VoxCheck Conspiracy Theory 15 0 15
https://traugott-ickeroth.com/liveticker/ Correctiv Conspiracy Theory 10 3 352
https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/lab-made-coronavirus-triggers-debate-34502 LeadStories Conspiracy Theory 9 5 1866
https://biohackinfo.com/news-bill-gates-id2020-vaccine-implant-covid-19-digital-certificates/ Factcheck.kz Conspiracy Theory 8 2 1389
https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2020/09/30/proof-that-the-pandemic-was-planned-with-purpose/ Newschecker Conspiracy Theory 7 13 438

Table 1: Top misinforming content.

Fact-check URL Topic Current Week Previous Week Total
https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/dec/11/facebook-posts/chart-comparing-2020-us-death-toll-previous-years-/ Spread 98 70 570
https://www.newtral.es/salvador-illa-sin-mascarilla-nos-preguntais-por/20210103/ Authorities 69 0 69
https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/dec/28/marco-rubio/marco-rubio-says-anthony-fauci-lied-about-masks-fa/ Authorities 69 0 69
https://factuel.afp.com/non-il-ny-pas-eu-davantage-de-morts-en-france-en-2019-quen-2020-selon-linsee Conspiracy Theory 67 0 67
https://piaui.folha.uol.com.br/lupa/2020/03/20/verificamos-maju-coutinho-coronavirus/ Other 60 0 78
https://www.thejournal.ie/freedom-of-information-request-covid-19-hse-does-not-exist-5312279-Dec2020/ Conspiracy Theory 57 0 57
https://www.factcheck.org/2020/09/cdc-did-not-admit-only-6-of-recorded-deaths-from-covid-19/ Authorities 40 11 1981
https://factuel.afp.com/non-cette-infirmiere-americaine-nest-pas-decedee-apres-avoir-recu-le-vaccin-anti-covid Conspiracy Theory 36 16 52
https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/dec/29/facebook-posts/cornell-virologist-did-not-say-covid-19-was-hoax/ Conspiracy Theory 30 0 30
https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/dec/02/blog-posting/former-pfizer-employee-wrong-coronavirus-pandemic-/ Spread 26 29 136

Table 2: Top fact-checked content.

Fact-checking

The data used for creating the Twitter dataset is obtained from the Poynter Coronavirus Fact Alliance. The alliance consists of 101 fact-checking organisation based in 1000 countries and covering 46 languages.

The largest amount of fact-checked content comes from English (8,706 fact-checks) and the least is Finland (1 fact-checks). Most fact-checked content is in Spanish (4,577) followed by Portuguese (2,801) and Ukrainian (2,073) (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.