Social Media Misinformation and Lockdown Measures in Democracies

Authors: Hubert Au, Jonathan Bright, Philip N. Howard

Given the evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic—and public understanding of the crises—we provide a weekly briefing about the spread of coronavirus information across multiple social media platforms. For the week leading up to 27-04-2020 we find:

• Content from junk health news and state-backed sources is distributed to hundreds of millions of social media accounts; the Washington Post had a social distribution network on par with that of state-backed media, due in part to the fact that they had a special article with Facebook, which then shared the article in some of the big pages it manages.
• In total, articles produced by junk health news sources were engaged with over seven million times this week. On average, articles from state-backed media sources stimulated the most engagement.
• Thematically, this week’s junk health news and information (1) focused on the “authoritarian” measures being instituted by elected governors across the US and (2) attacked prominent democrats such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi over the economic impacts of the coronavirus.

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