And many of those bots are rapidly feeding Twitter with harmful, false story lines about the pandemic, including some inspiring real-world activity, such as the theory that 5G towers cause COVID-19, or state-sponsored propaganda from Russia and China that falsely claims the U.S. developed the coronavirus as a bioweapon or that American politicians are issuing “mandatory” lockdowns.
Researchers there found that 45.5% of users tweeting about the coronavirus have the characteristics of bots, such as tweeting more frequently than is humanly possible, or appearing to be in one country and then another a few hours later.
The Carnegie Mellon team identified more than 100 false narratives relating to coronavirus worldwide, which they divided into six different categories: cures or preventative measures, weaponization of the virus, emergency responses, the nature of the virus (like children being immune to it), self-diagnosis methods, and feel-good stories, like dolphins returning to Venice’s canals.
Disinformation about the coronavirus erodes trust in institutions and makes the public less likely to comply with scientifically informed government measures needed to curb the spread of the virus, like lockdowns and social distancing.
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